CRYSTAL LAKE – The two Democrats vying for the chance to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren in November agree on raising the minimum wage, nixing the Keystone Pipeline and bringing back unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
But in their closing statements at a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of McHenry County Monday evening, Dennis Anderson of Gurnee and John Hosta of Spring Grove emphasized their differences.
"The issue here is who has the best chance of winning in November, not in the primary, so I encourage the Democrats to take a small step in my direction and vote for somebody who's a little more to the right, that's a little more in the middle to encourage the Republican vote to make a change," Hosta said.
The first-time candidate hammered repeatedly on the issues of full employment, upping trade regulations and tariffs, eliminating wasteful programs and targeting fraud.
"One of the primary differences [between my opponent and I] is breadth of focus," Anderson said. "I have tremendous respect for John being up for this, but as you've picked up tonight, his focus is on trade and tariffs. There are a lot more problems in this country than trade and tariffs, and the problems are not going to be solved by addressing trade and tariff issues."
Anderson also downplayed the role fraud plays in government spending, adding that when it does exist it's often created by providers, not recipients.
By cracking down on fraud and eliminating wasteful and inefficient programs, Hosta said many of the country's problems could be addressed, including gridlock in Congress.
"I don't know of any group that would vote against looking at passing some legislation or at least getting committees to review some of the qualifications on some of these benefits to reduce spending," Hosta said. "Once we start reducing spending in certain logical areas, I think gridlock will start to slow down."
While Anderson said he's not opposed to eliminate wasteful programs, the problem is identifying those programs, which is a "huge undertaking."
The winner of the Democratic primary on March 18 will go on to face the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, in the 14th Congressional District, which includes all of McHenry County, except for Algonquin Township.