Residents of Grand Haven, an active senior community in Romeoville, welcomed Republican contenders in the March 20 primary during a candidates’ night on Thursday, May 8.
The private forum gave candidates a chance to discuss their backgrounds and ideas, along with fielding questions from residents.
Ken Griffin, a Romeoville trustee and Grand Haven resident, said all Republican candidates appearing on residents' March 20 ballots were invited to participate in the event.
Present at the event were Will County Board District 13 candidates Tim Kraulidis, Ilona Vaughn and Liz Collins; Illinois House of Representatives 98th District hopefuls Bob Kalnicky and Janet Silosky; Illinois Senate 49th District candidates Gary Fitzgerald, Garrett Peck and Brian Smith; and 11th Congressional District challenger John “Jack” Cunningham.
Taxes, state pension funding (or lack thereof) and making Illinois more business friendly were the evening’s hot topics.
Here’s what candidates had to say during their allotted five-minute speech
County Board District 13
As the president and CEO of the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Collins touted her experience with working with local businesses.
“Working at the chamber, I get to see a lot of businesses come into the community and struggle, and some succeed and others don’t,” she said.
A Grand Haven resident, Collins said she is in favor of reduced taxes and senior tax freezes, along with working to strengthen Social Security and Medicare and tax incentives to entice businesses to hire more employees.
Collins said the state of Illinois’ economy was her call to action.
“As an elected official, we need to work within the limits of our budget,” she said.
A Joliet resident, Kraulidis said he founded the Joliet Tea Party three years ago, explaining that the movement grew out of residents’ dissatisfaction with government debt, spending and intrusiveness.
“People started getting fired up,” he said.
Kraulidis said he favors limited government, a balanced budget, lower taxes and increased transparency.
“That’s not a Tea Party message,” he said. “That’s a Republican message.
Vaughn, who is running on the same ticket with Kraulidis, has also been active with the local Tea Party.
“I wanted to get involved with local politics because I’m sick of what’s happening,” said the mom of two.
“I’ve taken time away from my family to fight,” Vaughn added, saying she considers herself a conservative Republican.
A small business owner and precinct committeeman in Plainfield Township, Silosky said she became involved in politics because she felt “no one was listening” to the concerns of residents.
“Not at the national level and not in Springfield,” she said.
“We have a lot of problems — everyone knows it,” Silosky added. “ … We haven’t had people that would stand up and face the issues and make the hard choices. Because they’ve just gone along, they need to go away.”
Silosky said she favors repealing the corporate and individual income tax increases, along with making Illinois “people friendly” by making it easier for businesses to thrive.
“I’m going to sponsor the bill [to repeal the tax increases] and then I’m going to vote for it,” Silosky said.
She added she would advocate for state pension reforms, pushing for a 401K-style package for government employees.
“I would not touch people who are retirees,” Silosky noted. “ … [Legislators] have dipped into the pension fund and used it for other things. Because they didn’t do their job … we’re paying the price.”
Silosky also said she would work to save money by paring down state government.
“I am a voice to do the right thing,” she said.
“We’re all very aware of the problems,” Kalnicky told Grand Haven residents. “The thing is, we need solutions — and more importantly, we need people who can deliver those solutions.”
Kalnicky, who serves as executive director of the Community Service Council and president of the Romeoville Area Chamber of Commerce, criticized Democratic leadership at the state level.
“Their tactic has been to increase taxes, increase spending and keep unions happy,” he said. “Now, the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak.”
Kalnicky said he would advocate a “pro-growth policy” to bring businesses back to Illinois.
“We are seeing a rate of one family moving out of Illinois every 10 minutes and they’re not coming back,” he said. “That state needs to start living up to our promises. We need to pay the bills that are due and not throw it back on the people of Illinois.”
Kalnicky criticized legislation that would shift the state’s pension obligations onto local school districts, a move that would leave school boards with little choice but to increase taxes.
“Guess what that means?” he said. “Your property taxes are going up again. It’s not fair. The state made a promise and the state needs to live up to that promise.
That’s what I intend to do.”
Fitzgerald, now in his third term as a Village of Shorewood trustee, stressed the importance of keeping businesses in Illinois.
“I’m running because I want to go to Springfield and vote for policies that promote fiscal responsibility and job growth,” he said.
“We’re going to need businesses to help get us out of this mess we’re in,” Fitzgerald added. “We desperately need to restore jobs and pride to Illinois.”
Fitzgerald cited his background, including 30 years in private business and his experience heading up Shorewood’s planning and zoning commission.
“We always operate from a balanced budget and we always pay our bills on time,” he said. “You should expect the same thing from your state government.”
Fitzgerald called for state spending reform and spending controls, along with increased health insurance contributions for state employees. As a state senator, he said he would immediately repeal the “job-killing” corporate tax increase and call a moratorium on “suffocating legislation” that is driving businesses out of Illinois.
Smith, a Will County Board member since 2009, said he would work to repeal both the individual income tax increase and corporate tax hike.
“I know what it takes to succeed,” said Smith, who is also a small business owner. “I’ll go to Springfield and I’ll make it happen.
“We have caused businesses to leave Illinois … in droves,” Smith said. “It’s not just people that are leaving — the money is leaving … I have the fiscal conservative values that will go down to Springfield and right this ship.”
Peck, a Plainfield village trustee and small business owner, said while there are plenty of problems in Illinois, there are a lot of good things, noting the state has the best rail, waterway and road systems in the Midwest.
“The problem is leadership,” he said. “The best thing you can do when you go vote on the 20th is send the right candidates to the general election.”
Peck said the state’s plan to shift responsibility for teachers’ pensions onto local school districts “will be the first fight I’m going to have in Springfield.”
As a Plainfield trustee, Peck said he has always voted against increases to taxes and fees.
“Sometimes mayors and other trustees don’t like that, they don’t like when someone rocks the boat,” he said.
“This is going to be the most important election in a decade,” Peck said, adding, “I’m a social and fiscal conservative and I’m not afraid to say it.”
Cunningham said he has spent much of his time — and money — this campaign season fighting challenges by longtime Congresswoman Judy Biggert, who has called his candidacy into question, alleging that many of the signatures on his petitions are invalid.
After a legal back-and-forth, he on whether his name will return to the ballot.
“So far most of my money has been spent fighting to stay on the ballot,” Cunningham said. “I’m running primarily to give people a choice.”
Saying he’s worked jobs ranging from truck driver to attorney to bank president, Cunningham said he will provide a fresh perspective in Congress.
“I want to be able to go to Congress and use that experience,” he said, adding he is a pro-life candidate who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1972.
“I’m hoping the state board of elections lets me stay on the ballot,” Cunningham said. “I would have liked to let the voters make the choice instead of judges and lawyers.”
Editor’s note: Grand Haven held a candidates’ night for Democratic candidates in the March 20 primary last week. Patch was not made aware of that event.