By Bob Skolnik
The presidential debate wasn't the only political one that occurred last week. On Oct. 1, the two candidates vying to become the new representative for the 3rd Congressional District, which includes the southern portion of Brookfield, got to together via Zoom for a virtual debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the LaGrange Area.
The differences between Democrat Marie Newman, who edged eight-term incumbent Dan Lipinski in the March primary, and Republican Mike Fricilone were apparent from the start in the low-key debate.
In his opening statement Fricilone, the clear underdog, made a bid to appeal to supporters of Lipinski, saying that if he is elected he would model himself after the outgoing congressman and join the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and characterizing Newman as a far-left radical.
"When Dan Lipinski lost his primary election, we lost one of the most commonsense, bipartisan voices in Congress and replaced him with my opponent, socialist Marie Newman," Fricilone said. "Marie's plans aren't focused on the 3rd District; they're taken from the most extreme leftists in Washington. Her plans for health care, the environment, the economy and every other issue are aligned with socialist Bernie Sanders and AOC. They certainly don't reflect the mainstream values of our community."
Newman, a former businesswoman and activist from LaGrange, rejected Newman's characterization of her.
"Name calling is unproductive and makes things worse," Newman said.
Newman, who challenged Lipinski from the left during the primary campaign with the support of many progressive activist groups, took pains throughout the debate to stake out mainstream positions.
Newman said that she was not in favor of defunding the police, calling instead for more training for police officers.
"I do not believe that we should abolish or get rid of policing or public safety in any way," Newman said.
When Fricilone attacked Newman for supporting the Green New Deal, a set of environmental proposals unveiled last year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and other progressives in Congress, Newman replied that the Green New Deal is aspirational.
"The Green New Deal, as we all know, is just a resolution," Newman said. "It was a commitment to address this crisis. It is not a plan, obviously not a plan, and is not a law. A resolution is just an agreement to address a critical problem, and I believe we should address it with renewables and investments in transportation and infrastructure."
On gun control Newman said that while she supported the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, she wants universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and red-flag laws.
Fricilone, the minority leader of the Will County Board who lives in Homer Glen, said that he supports stronger enforcement of laws against those who commit crimes with guns but was not enthusiastic about banning certain types of guns.
"My concern is that it's a slippery slope," Fricilone said. "If we start banning one thing, then we start banning the next thing and then before you know it we've banned all guns, and I don't think that's fair to those people who are responsible. We definitely need to take the guns away, but we need to take them away from criminals."
While Newman said that systemic racism is a continuing problem in the United States, Fricilone said that racism seemed to be more of a problem when he was growing up in the 1970s.
"Racism is a huge problem in our country, period," Newman said. "It is part of every minute of every day of every hour and it must be addressed."
Newman also said that she supported a gradual transition to Medicare for All.
"We should prop up the ACA as we migrate to Medicare for All," Newman said.
Fricilone said that Medicare for All is too expensive and increase the tax burden on most Americans. He said that he wants to improve the Affordable Care Act.
"What I think we should do is keep the good parts of Obamacare and retool," Fricilone said, adding that many union members do not want to lose the health insurance that their unions had bargained for.
Fricilone is opposed to abortion and said that he didn't think contraceptives should be covered by insurance plans. Newman is a strong supporter of abortion rights.
"I trust women and they should have domain over their own bodies," Newman said.
Newman is the heavy favorite in the district that runs from the Bridgeport neighborhood in Chicago to near Joliet. The district leaned Democrat and in the 2016 presidential election, with Hillary Clinton carrying the district with 55 percent of the vote.