The two men vying to represent the 6th Congressional District traded insults Monday night during a debate.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, sparred with Democrat Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, during a live forum hosted by WTTW.
The highly competitive race has sparked national interest, as Roskam holds one of the 23 seats Democrats hope to flip in November with a so-called blue wave and retake the U.S. House of Representatives.
Roskam accused Casten of mudslinging and unfairly tying him to President Donald Trump.
“He’s bound himself to some people who were advocating political blackmail and political slander,” Roskam said of Casten.
Casten painted Roskam as a flip-flopper and Trump enabler.
He said Roskam has “run a campaign modeled on Trump’s. You’ve spent millions of dollars [on] playground insults. You’ve spent millions of dollars lying about your own record, and mine.”
Casten, a biochemist and entrepreneur, has never been elected to public office. He bills himself as an “independent voice” with progressive values.
Roskam was elected to Congress in 2006. He votes with Trump a majority of the time.
The two men fielded questions regarding taxes, health care and Saudi Arabia from reporter Carol Marin.
Roskam defended his vote for Trump’s controversial $1.5 trillion tax cut that the Congressional Budget Office said would increase the deficit.
“I understand the criticism, and it’s something that I wrestled with,” Roskam said. “The question is do you take on debt to buy something that’s increasing in value? The answer is yes. ... We have a tax code that is now the most competitive tax jurisdiction in the world.”
Roskam said residents in the
6th District are benefiting from a simpler tax code and economic growth, “the likes of which we were told were not possible.”
Casten said he believes the tax cuts contribute to rising inequality.
“We are seeing massive dividends to the wealthiest 1 percent and corporations,” Casten said. “What we are seeing is an 84 percent increase in our borrowing to fund those tax cuts. What we are seeing is the Republican leadership with Peter Roskam saying that they are going to fund those deficits by cutting Social Security and Medicare. That is deeply irresponsible, and it’s deeply immoral.”
Despite voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Roskam said he wants to “take the good things out of it and embrace those, and shun the bad things.”
“Sean has falsely accused me of being against protecting people with pre-existing conditions,” he said.
Casten called for “cheaper, better health care.”
“Every single country that has universal health care has a lower cost per capita and better outcomes,” he said.
When questioned about Saudi Arabia and the state-sanctioned killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Roskam said the U.S. should “express our strongest disappointment in this, and we need to be very aggressive as it relates to the Saudis.”
Casten said Trump’s anti-media rhetoric has emboldened attacks on reporters.
“One of our values has always been a free press. We are not a credible player on that stage right now. ... Our own president is having rallies where he’s encouraging his supporters to attack reporters,” Casten said.
Democrat Hillary Clinton won the 6th Congressional District vote by seven points in 2016.
The midterm election is Nov. 6.