Candidates in the Republican race for the 49th State Senate District discussed everything from tax reform to Illinois' civil union law at a forum sponsored by the Oswego Toastmasters on Tuesday night at the .
The candiates are Shorewood village trustee Gary Fitzgerald, Oswego village trustee Tony Giles, Plainfield trustee Garrett Peck and Will County board member Brian Smith. Due to illness, Peck could not attend the forum. Spokesman Mark Batinick filled in for Peck.
Few differences emerged among the candidates on the state's biggest problems, including the budget deficit and the state's comparatively high unemployment rate. However, Fitzgerald did come out in support of civil unions and gay marriage, saying the government should not be involved in such private matters. His opponents all said they did not support the state's civil union law.
"Civil unions are the law of the land and I don't oppose it," Fitzgerald said. "I also don't oppose gay marriage. I don't think it's any business of the government's to meddle in these affairs."
Another highlight of the evening came when Giles took a swipe at Peck, who he sees as his chief rival in the race. Giles asked why Peck wasn't at the forum and repeatedly took shots at Peck's endorcement from former judge and State Senator Ed Petka, who Giles said is collecting one of the largest government pensions in the state. Records show that Petka collects an annual pension of about $182,000.
The newly drawn 49th State Senate District encompasses portions of Oswego, Montgomery, Plainfield, Romeoville and Shorewood.
Voters head to the primary polls in Illinois on Tuesday, March 20.
Click the videos attached to this article to hear what the candidates have to say on the following questions:
- What specific and new ideas do you have to spur economic development locally and in the state of Illinois?
- Should pension reform in the state of Illinois include public safety employees?
- What incentives, if any, do you support to keep some of the state's largest employers (like Caterpillar) from leaving the state?
Editor's note: Oswego Patch editor Steven Jack was a moderator of this forum.