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Party of five

Marcelle Bright – for The Chronicle
Ethan Hastert (far left), republican candidate for the 14th congressional district, answers a question during a candidates' forum Sunday at Eaglebrook Country Club in Geneva as candidates Jeff Danklefsen, Mark Vargas and Randall Hultgren look on.
Marcelle Bright – for The Chronicle Ethan Hastert (far left), republican candidate for the 14th congressional district, answers a question during a candidates' forum Sunday at Eaglebrook Country Club in Geneva as candidates Jeff Danklefsen, Mark Vargas and Randall Hultgren look on.

GENEVA – Kane County Republican Party leaders urged the more than 300 people at the 14th Congressional District candidates forum on Sunday to support whichever man wins the February primary so that the party can reclaim the seat from the Democrats.

“The 14th district has a congressman now who is out of step with what people need and believe,” Vice Chairman Ken Shepro said, noting U.S. Rep. Bill Foster’s views on health care and economic legislation.

South Elgin residents Timm and Mary Berg agreed. They have spoken to Foster at least three times, they said, but his actions do not reflect their views.

“He’s done whatever he wants to,” Timm Berg said.

Five men are vying to be the Republican nominee for the November 2010 general election: Jeff Danklefsen, 41, Ethan Hastert, 31, State Sen. Randall Hultgren, 43, Mark Vargas, 28, and Jim Purcell, 41, who was unable to attend the forum, he said, because of a prior commitment.

Foster faces no opposition in the Feb. 2 primary because James Pistorius, the one Democrat who filed to run against him, announced last week that he was withdrawing from the race. The Green Party candidate is Dan Kairis.

Republican Dennis Hastert served the district for about 20 years, eight of which he spent as House Speaker. He resigned two years ago before his 11th term ended.

Voters elected Foster to the seat in a special election in March 2008 and again in that year’s general election.

In-party fighting and losing candidates’ refusal to support the nominee contributed to the party’s loss last year, Shepro said.

Hultgren is running for Congress because he is frustrated with the direction of the nation, the growth of government and lack of accountability in the officials in Washington, D.C.

Plus, he said, “I can’t stand having Bill Foster as my congressman.”

Danklefsen expressed frustrations with federal spending.

“I think it’s time for the average American to step up, to fight government,” Danklefsen said. “If we don’t, there’s not going to be anything left for our children.”

Hastert is making his political debut in the congressional race because, he said, the more local seats are already well represented by Republicans.

“This really is a question about philosophy,” Hastert said. “What is the proper role of government? What should we do now in spending practices? I firmly believe in smaller, smarter government.”

Vargas said this election is important because his generation is bankrupt. He noted the high unemployment and said the principles he used in rebuilding Iraq’s economy in the last two years can be applied here.

“I’ve been disappointed in the direction of our country,” he said. “My candidacy represents a fresh, new perspective.”

Purcell provided The Chronicle with his written response to the questions asked Sunday. He said he believes the Republicans lost their majority in Congress not because voters moved left, but because they lost confidence in Republicans.

“We need to put forward our own plans and our own vision for America,” he said. “And we need to back it up with the courage to see it through.”

The candidates

Jeff Danklefsen

• Town: Geneva
• Family: Wife, two children
• Occupation: Maintenance manager for a St. Charles property management company
• Education: Waubonsee Community College
• Web site:
• On the economy: The economy cannot grow when the government spends and regulates, he said. The government punishes profit-takers, he said, but creating wealth is not a crime. Wants to balance the budget and rein in spending.
• On national security: If sending additional troops to Afghanistan leads to its sovereignty, he supports it, he said. However, he noted, the United States can't continue to serve as a security force.
• On health care: Health care is a problem, but it does not mean government is the answer, he said. He doubts the government's ability to pay for a public option. Americans are conditioned to think they are not responsible for their health care, he said, but the problem is not their inability to afford it but their unwillingness to pay for it.

Ethan Hastert

• Town: Elburn
• Family: Wife, son
• Occupation: Attorney for a private practice in Chicago
• Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University School of Law
• Web site:
• On the economy: The president should be given line-item veto authority, he said. The government should follow the rule "do no harm" in regards to the economy, he said. It should enact a comprehensive national energy policy and common sense health care reform.
• On national security: He said he understands the president wants to take time to listen to the generals about Afghanistan, but he believes it is time for a decision. The United States has no business fighting a war it does not fully intend to win, he said.
• On health care: The health care bill is not for him or the 14th District, he said. He wants to see common sense proposals, such as increases in choice, competition, portability and accessibility. People who have been covered most of their lives should not lose insurance if they lose their job or become ill, he said.

State Sen. Randall M. Hultgren

• Town: Winfield Township
• Family: Wife, four kids
• Occupation: Investment adviser
• Education: Bethel University, Chicago-Kent College of Law
• Web site:
• On the economy: Small businesses compose the economic engine, he said, and they should feel welcome to settle in Illinois and the United States. He supports renewing the Bush tax credits.
• On national security: The United States has to be aware of the dangers in Iran, he said, noting his frustration that President Obama has not empowered allies there to overthrow the dangers. In Afghanistan, he said, the government needs to listen to the generals on the ground.
• On health care: He said he disagrees with the bill in Washington. Health care should be a personal responsibility, and incentives should be available to those who take care of themselves, he said. It is important for citizens to speak out and say life is important and to fight for life, he said.

Jim Purcell

• Town: Batavia
• Family: Wife, three kids
• Occupation: Business consultant and owner
• Education: Western Illinois University, Pepperdine Univeristy
• Web site:
• On the economy: Reckless government spending needs to end, he said, noting the country doesn't just need a balanced budget but a smaller one. He supports tax cuts accompanied by spending cuts.
• On national security: In Afghanistan, the United States needs to rely on the generals' experience and wisdom, he said. He would support strategic missile attacks on nuclear facilities in Iran and North Korea only if the countries pose a threat to America.
• On health care: Health insurance is not a right, he said, and no American should be forced to purchase it. He supports tort reform and believes doctors need to focus on providing quality care, he said. He said it is irresponsible to push a $1 trillion plan on Americans during this recession.

Mark Vargas

• Town: Elgin
• Family: Single
• Occupation: Worked in the Department of Defense, helped rebuild Iraq's economy
• Education: Judson University
• Web site:
• On the economy: Focus should be on the unemployed in Kane County, he said, but a long-term goal should be creating careers since careers lead to jobs. The burden also should be taken off of small-business owners, he said.
• On national security: He has no question in his mind people in Afghanistan are planning the next 9/11. While al-Qaeda remains a threat, he said, so is Iran. He noted the best way to secure an area is to make sure people are working, so job creation must be a priority.
• On health care: Reform is needed, he said, but government is not the solution. He doubts the government's ability to manage a trillion dollar health care program. He said the topic would be less of an issue if more people were working.

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