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Candidates for 30th district agree on pensions, split on guns

State Sen. Terry Link D-Waukegan

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan

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Updated: November 24, 2012 6:02AM

WAUKEGAN — Some sharp contrasts but also some agreement was aired Oct. 10 when the two candidates in Illinois State Senate District 30 — Republican Don Castella of Lincolnshire and incumbent Democrat Terry Link of Waukegan — squared off at a candidates forum at the Park Place senior center in Belvidere Park.

Both Link, who was first elected to the shoreline district in 1996, and Castella, who has served as Vernon Township Republican Central Committee chairman since 2006, told a crowd of about 50 people that they support passage of the Illinois Public Pension Amendment, which proposes that all public bodies must have a three-fifths majority vote to increase public-pension benefits.

“I voted (to) put it on the ballot,” Link said of the measure that will go before voters statewide on Nov. 6. “I think it should be the citizen’s opportunity to vote for this, it should be the citizen’s right to tell us, not us telling you, what you want to do.”

“I think the amendment is a good idea,” said Castella, adding that he feels “we need to have a more responsible way of handling” public pensions.

The two candidates also agreed that Illinois Cares Rx — the presecription-drug and Medicare Part D benefits program that was eliminated due to budget cuts on July 1 — should only be reinstated if funding is available.

“When we had to make those cuts, it was tough,” Link said. “If we can afford to do it, yes, I want to get it reinstated. If we can afford to do a lot of other things, I’d like to get a lot of other things reinstated, but we’ve got to be able to afford to do it. That’s the toughest thing we have to realize.”

“Illinois is broke, to put it simply,” Castella said. “Illinois has been spending more money than it takes in. We could be Santa Claus, except for one thing — we don’t get the money. ... If this program is a high priority, then it should get that funding, but until we have the money to do so, we can talk all we want to, but if we can’t afford it, we can’t do it.”

But the two diverged sharply when answering a question from the audience about whether or not they support concealed-carry of firearms, which has failed to make it through Springfield in recent years.

“When seconds count, police are only minutes away,” Castella said. “I think that the issue here is that 49 other states have forms of concealed carry available, and the Second Amendement is very clear (that) it is an individual right to keep and bear arms. ... I would take an oath to uphold the Constitution if I were elected, one of the first things I would do is vote for something that is Constitutional.”

“I’ll make it very clear: I oppose concealed carry. I voted against it, I will continue to vote against it,” Link said. “I have no problem with somebody who is legally qualified to own a gun (if) they are hunters, but I think we are bending over to try to make something (covered by) the Second Amendment that was never intended in that manner. ... Illinois is the only state that doesn’t have concealed carry. God bless Illinois, and I’m glad I live here.”

Castella also looked to distinguish himself from Link when discussing why he chose to run for the State Senate, saying the reason “is pretty simple — Illinois is in trouble. It needs some leadership, it needs people who understand job creation.”

“I’m someone who has operated small businesses most of my adult life, I’ve lived in this county for 35 years and operated businesses for all of that time,” Castella added. “We need some new blood. ... My opponent is someone who’s been part of the leadership for a long time in the General Assembly (for) a good part of the last 30 years, and they seem to be going pretty much in the same direction, and basically we’ve got Illinois circling the drain now.”

In his closing remarks, Link told the audience that “I think you found out a distinct difference between my opponent and myself. But I never run against somebody, I’m running for an office.”

“I’ve always ran on what I stood for, and I think you know what I stood for — I try to help individuals. I’m not an answer to every subject, and I don’t pretend to be an answer to every subject,” Link added. “Have I succeeded? In a lot of things, I have. Some I haven’t. But I have tried. I go to bed at night knowing that I have tried every day to make my job and your lives a little bit better.”

District 30’s boundaries include most of the city of Waukegan, extending from the southern Beach Park border to the north side of North Chicago, and then from Lake Michigan shoreline to Route 41.

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