Catholic Conference of Illinois interviews governor candidates

Photo Caption: Four of the five candidates for governor of Illinois took part in a survey conducted by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. This image shows three of five responses. All responses are in the story.

In an election year dominated by economic and budget concerns, four of the five candidates for Illinois governor recently sat down with the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI) to discuss their views on those issues as well as legislative issues including education, abortion, the death penalty, immigration, and civil unions.

“We appreciate the candidates taking the time during the busy campaign season to share their views on legislation of interest to Catholics in the state,” said Robert Gilligan, CCI executive director.

“Their answers and insights into these issues are of great help to Catholics across Illinois as they consider the choices available to them in November,” continued Gilligan. “The Catholic Church does not endorse candidates, but CCI works hard to inform Catholics of public policy issues important to the common good and to the church.”

Completing brief questionnaires from CCI — which are available in English, Spanish, and Polish at www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org ? and then taking part in follow-up interviews prior to the Nov. 2 election were the following governor candidates:

— State Sen. Bill Brady, Republican, 49, a real estate and home developer from Bloomington;

— Scott Lee Cohen, Independent, 45, an entrepreneur with experience in the real estate industry who won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor but later gave up the position following revelations about his personal life;

— Lex Green, Libertarian, 56, an electrician from Bloomington making his first run for political office, and

— Rich Whitney, 55, a Carbondale attorney and one of the founding members of the Illinois Green Party who also ran for governor in 2006.
Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket, declined to take part in either the survey or interview despite numerous contacts to his office.

The full texts of the interviews — conducted on behalf of CCI by Tom Dermody, editor of The Catholic Post — have been posted online at the conference’s Web site. The survey results are being distributed to all Catholic parishes in the state, and individual stories from the interviews appear at www.thecatholicpost.com.

Following are the survey questions, the candidates’ responses, and selected quotes from their interviews.

Do you support or oppose The Ultrasound Opportunity Act (House Bill 5743), which mandates abortion facilities offer women seeking abortion an opportunity to view an ultrasound of their unborn baby?

Brady (R): Supports. “Anything we can do to give individuals the greatest knowledge possible about protecting human life, it is incumbent on us to do so.”

Cohen (I): Supports. “I think there needs to be a better education on alternative choices to abortion.”

Green (L): Opposes. “I feel that government power is something to be distrusted, and I think that the ultrasound option is a good idea, but I don’t think that the government mandate is necessarily the way to go.”

Whitney (G): Opposes. “It’s intrusive in an area that I think should be the province of physicians and patients.”

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Do you support or oppose legislation (Senate Bill 2494) offering tuition vouchers to parents of students in underperforming and overcrowded schools so they may choose a quality, state recognized non-public school?

Brady (R): Supports. “I fought for passage of that in the House and the Senate. I worked across party lines. Parental choice in education is paramount to bringing the best educational opportunities for our children.”

Cohen (I): Supports. “I’m going to restore the funding that was cut to education. Because the classrooms are so overcrowded, we need to do everything in our power to give these children the opportunity for a good education and if that is provided by these vouchers, so be it.”

Green (L): Supports. “If you have open enrollment, which would be facilitated through the use of vouchers, then I think we would have much better education, at least for the majority of school districts, and I do think that private schools should be included in those programs.”

Whitney (G): Opposes. “I see this as a device which will only tend to further the deterioration of our public schools. The fundamental problem with our public schools is lack of funding. We need to be fixing that problem.”

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Do you support or oppose the abolition of the death penalty (House Bill 5687)?

Brady (R): Opposes. “This is a difficult decision for me. I support the law of the land. Every safeguard should be undertaken and this should be reserved for the most heinous crimes that exist. This will be the most difficult thing ever to observe as governor.”

Cohen (I): Supports. “We’re not God. Human beings don’t have the right to take a human being’s life. There’s still the possibility of an innocent person being put to death for a crime he didn’t commit, which makes it doubly wrong.”

Green (L): Opposes. “Life is sacred, and therefore we should not take it for light purposes. However, I don’t think that a person is immune from giving up his right to life for a particularly heinous crime.”

Whitney (G): Supports. “I do not think it is the role of imperfect human institutions, such as government, to take a human life. Virtually every civilized country in the world has abolished capital punishment. The United States is really a backwards nation in this regard.”

—–

Do you support or oppose legislation establishing civil unions for same-sex couples in Illinois (Senate Bill 1716)?

Brady (R): Opposes. “I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman and should be maintained as such. I think we have to realize that First Amendment rights should be preserved and we have to be careful not to pass laws that create that kind of conflict.”

Cohen (I): Supports. “I feel if we don’t give them the rights or benefits of a married couple, they’re not going to be interested in monogamy. We’re giving them hope and stabilizing society a little bit.”

Green (L): Supports. “I support legislation giving homosexual and gay couples equal rights under the law. I am a fan of limited government. I would be opposed to forcing the church or an adoption agency sponsored by the church from having to do anything that the government tells them to do.”

Whitney (G): Supports. “I actually support the right to marry for same-sex couples. Civil unions would be the next best thing. It’s a question of equal protection under the law, equal rights under society.”

—–

Would you support or oppose legislation in Illinois similar to Arizona’s law ? SB 1070? (In part, SB 1070 originally allowed for local law enforcement to check the status of persons they stop legally whom they suspect are undocumented immigrants and made it a state crime to not carry the proper immigration documents.)

Brady (R): Did not indicate a preference. “I support Arizona’s right to do what they think best and best serves their state. In Illinois we have a different situation. At the end of the day we need a federal solution that will bring about meaningful immigration reform.”

Cohen (I): Opposes. “The federal government needs to implement some better restrictions on people who are coming in illegally; however, as governor I will not separate families. Nor will I discriminate because of a people’s color, race, or religion.”

Green (L): Supports. “I am running as a states’ rights candidate, and I think that what Arizona did was to look out for their own interests and protect their own citizens. I don’t necessarily agree with all the details.”

Whitney (G): Opposes. “There’s another way to respond, and that is to recognize what are the sources of the problem and turn to solutions that involve building greater unity, not greater divisiveness.”

Asked at the conclusion of the interview for other thoughts they would like to express to Catholics in the state, most candidates took the opportunity to share their views on addressing the state’s economic woes.

“I look at Illinois like a glass that’s over half full,” said Brady, who serves on the board of directors of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria. “Yes, we have our political divisions that have to be overcome, we have our record deficits and debt, but I don’t think there is a state with more opportunity to change the lives of the people and I don’t think there is a time better to do that than today.”

He said Illinois leaders have failed to best utilize the state’s plentiful resources including its agriculture base, a transportation infrastructure located “in the center of the country’s economic universe,” its educational institutions and hospitals.

Cohen said that “as important as the moral issues are, we need to elect a government that has the ability to bring back the jobs and put people to work.”

Saying that as an Independent candidate he can help divided sides find common ground on both moral and fiscal matters, Cohen pledged to raise money for the state not by raising taxes but by “bringing businesses back to Illinois.” Cohen also said he would work to eliminate waste, mismanagement and corruption.

Green, who like Cohen is making his first run for political office, said he favors limiting the size and scope of government. Furthering that model, he said, “maximizes freedom for the Catholic Church, for all churches, and for people who don’t attend church.”

“Those freedoms are very important to me,” said Green. “They were put in place by the founding fathers.”

Whitney called the budget “the big elephant in the living room when you’re talking about what needs to be done in Illinois” and said it affects many other issues, including the ones discussed in the CCI questionnaire.

“This is one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest nation,” said Whitney, who garnered 10 percent of the vote when he ran for governor in 2006. “It is absolutely appalling and absurd and unacceptable that we’re in a situation now where our schools are being cut to the bone, our public services are failing, people that are in dire need of mental health services are being kicked to the curb, and our colleges are becoming more and more unaffordable.”

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