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March 09, 2006

The Augie forum

I took in the candidates' forum over at Augie Wednesday night. (D/A story)

It was an inclusive affair. Young Professionals Network, a chamber group, sponsored it. Kids from Augie's political science department did much of the nitty-gritty, picking up a little real-world experience. David Dehnel, a department prof, moderated.

First disappointment was the turnout. About 50 people, including candidates. Fifteen-20 students, judging by appearances. Andrea Zinga wasn't surprised. She said people have been pretty sparse at the string of forums and dinners she, Jim Mowen and Brian Gilliland have attended in their quest for the Republican congressional nomination. Lots of apathy.

Second disappointment was that Mike Jacobs couldn't make it. His absence was neither mentioned nor explained from the podium, but the Senate was in session Wednesday and Thursday.

In his introductory remarks, Prof. Dehnel said the Senate race puts RICO Democrats at a crossroads between continuity and change. He said continuity's been an important element in Demo successes, but with "the son appointed for the father" the Democrats have to decide "whether that continuity should continue."

He said he "appreciates Paul Rumler's candidacy for proposing that question."

First time I'd seen Rumler in front of an audience. Handles himself well. Articulate and positive. Never mentioned Jacobs.

On the "top issue" question, he, like the congressional candidates, said economic development, and within that, the completion of a new Western Illinois campus in the Q-C. The $2.4 million in planning funds is a good start but the $60 million price means a concerted long term effort is needed. No doubt right, given that WIU's top capital spending priority, is, as it has been for several years, a new performing arts center at the McComb campus.

The congressional candidates have seen a lot of each other recently, and are pretty civil, politely applauding each other's remarks and such. Mowen is most emphatic in saying that a positive, issues oriented campaign is the GOP's best hope of successfully challenging long-term incumbent Lane Evans. Zinga was the only one of mention Evans, when she talked about the big fine he's paying to the Federal Elections Commission for the way the money got handled in his 19989 and 2000 campaigns.

Mowen and Hilliland both put lots of emphasis on their business experience. Zinga countered with the breadth of experience gained in a long journalism career, along with involvement in family businesses.

Mowen said he'd have a full-time economic development person on his staff. Zinga said she'd depend on the many economic development staffers already employed by cities and counties to guide her.

Gilliland, whose business efforts include negotiating contracts for National Football League players, said he's given up his agent's license in anticipation of being the agent for 17th District residents
On the question about how faith would affect their actions in Congress, Mowen was most outspoken. He said his "faith forms who I am" and talked about his work for his church, including a string of two-week missions in Africa and Europe. The faith would affect his votes, "but not in a right-wing radical way, but in a Midwest common-sense way."

On energy issues, everybody's for more wind farms and ethanol use and stiffer mileage requirements. Gilliland said we need to build more nuke plants. He and Mowen think it's OK to drill in Alaska's wildlife refuges, though Zinga said she'd need to see a really detailed study before she'd do that.

It was a pleasant enough evening. Sorry more of you didn't share it.

Posted by jcb at March 9, 2006 02:42 PM


You know that Mike wouldn't have been there, even if he was just up the block at the Quarter Til. He hasn't spoken on the issues yet, why would he start now? He certainly doesn't want to be sized up to Rumler.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 9, 2006 03:41 PM

Are you OK. Jacobs was at work Wednesday. He wasn't at a local wateringhole with the people. He will be at several events, and at several appearances this weekend and I am sure he will get to a local wateringhole to get the pulse of some of his constituants..

Posted by: Anonymous at March 10, 2006 08:45 AM

I'm glad my Senator was working for our area and not missing session to attend a forum of 40 people, which i'm pretty sure were mostly the panels family members. . I must say, that's what one does when they have a job - they work. Thank you Senator Jacobs for doing your job in Springfield.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 10, 2006 12:24 PM

Can you believe that only 30 people were at this event Candidates, family, and all. There only being three comments to its post. Makes one feel as if no one realy cares. This is a shame. Maybe the internet is the way to go.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 14, 2006 08:28 AM