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GOP candidates outline platforms in their first 14th District debate

Seven vying for chance to challenge Underwood in congressional race

Seven candidates are squaring off in the March Republican primary for 14th Congressional District nomination. They debated Wednesday night at McHenry County College.
Seven candidates are squaring off in the March Republican primary for 14th Congressional District nomination. They debated Wednesday night at McHenry County College.

Seven Republicans looking to unseat Naperville Democrat Lauren Underwood in the 14th Congressional District used their first public debate Wednesday night to lay out their top priorities.

The ideas offered during the forum at McHenry County College ranged from social issues to political ideals and provided a contrast for GOP voters eyeing the March primary.

Two candidates, Jerry Evans of Warrenville and James Marter of Oswego, identified abortion as their top legislative priority if elected. Evans repeatedly said compassion is a cornerstone of his philosophy to governing.

“We should never call it compassionate if we chop up a child and suck it through a tube,” Evans said. “I stand for life. I believe life begins at conception. We need to defund any form of taxpayer-funded abortion. The government should not be part of any form of euthanasia.”

Marter said he’s been attending anti-abortion marches and prayer vigils long before he got into politics. He went as far as to criticize his own party, specifically former Gov. Bruce Rauner, for making Illinois “the abortion capital of the Midwest.”

“We need to defund Planned Parenthood,” Marter said. “We need to protect the most innocent lives from the moment of conception. We need to defend life from euthanasia and assisted suicide. We need to be the country that stands up for life.”

Anthony Catella, who is from
St. Charles, spoke in broad philosophical terms when identifying his top priority.

“I believe in our national purpose and power,” he said. “I believe strongly in an educated citizenry. And I believe in the ideals of faith and freedom.”

Ted Gradel, who lives in Naperville, said career politicians are at the root of what’s wrong with the federal government. He said legislation locking in term limits for all members of Congress would be his top priority.

“We’ve seen in this state a tragic example of when a machine gets established,” Gradel said. “We have a ruling class that has enriched themselves at the expense of everyone else. We see politicians go to D.C., and they lose touch with who we are and the problems we have and the solutions we need.”

Catalina Lauf, a Woodstock resident, adopted some of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric in identifying “draining the swamp” as her top priority. She said legislation that focuses on securing the inherent freedoms of Americans would be her focus.

“Government is too big,” Lauf said. “We need to ensure our rights are not being touched. Chief among them is the Second Amendment. And right along with that is the First Amendment. Why should we have to whisper if we supported President Trump in 2016? Why are we afraid to wear American flags on our T-shirts? We need to make sure freedom is at the forefront of everything we do as elected officials.”

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove said he would support term limits and solutions to illegal immigration. But he identified the federal budget and increasing federal deficit his main target if elected.

“The most important thing we must do is provide a balanced-budget amendment,” Oberweis said. “The fact that we are stealing the future from our kids and grandkids has got to be stopped.”

State Sen. Sue Rezin of Morris said the path for Republicans to take back the 14th District is to be strong on health care, the issue Underwood used in her campaign.

“I’m the only person on the stage who has passed legislation [at the state level], a year ago, that protects people with preexisting conditions,” Rezin said. “We wanted to repeal and replace [the Affordable Care Act], but didn’t have a plan to replace it. That is my sole goal when I come to Washington, D.C., to come up with a plan that is affordable and accessible.”

The sprawling 14th Congressional District includes parts of DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall Lake, McHenry and Will counties. The primary is March 17.

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