Independent candidate Cohen: ‘We have to change’

By Tom Dermody
For the Catholic Conference of Illinois

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Scott Lee Cohen feels that his status as an Independent will help often-divided sides find common ground.

“As an Independent,” said Cohen in a recent interview with the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI), “one of the most important things I bring to the table is the ability to work with the Democrats on one side and Republicans on another, as well as the special interest groups and the lobbyists. Until we really sit down and give and take a little, things are not going to happen in this state for the betterment of the people.”

Cohen, 45, an entrepreneur with a real estate background who resides in Chicago, is one of five candidates for Illinois governor in the Nov. 2 election.

In late summer, four of the candidates — Cohen, Illinois Sen. Bill Brady (Republican), Lex Green (Libertarian), and Rich Whitney (Green) — completed brief questionnaires from CCI and agreed to follow-up interviews.

Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket, declined to take part in either the survey or interview.

Cohen voiced his support for abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.

“We’re not God,” he said. “Human beings don’t have the right to take a human being’s life. Aside from that, 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.”

He also supports legislation offering tuition vouchers to parents of students in underperforming schools ? “We need to do everything in our power to give children the opportunity for a good education, and if that is provided by these vouchers, so be it,” he said ? as well as The Ultrasound Opportunity Act, mandating abortion facilities offer women seeking abortion an opportunity to view an ultrasound of their unborn baby.

“I think there needs to be better education on alternative choices to abortion,” said Cohen. He also promised to help bridge partisan divides on issues such as the right to life.

“We’re going to change the whole mentality and temperament of Springfield,” he said. “We have to.”

Cohen said he would support legislation establishing civil unions for same-sex couples in Illinois.

“This is something on which the Church disagrees with me,” he acknowledged. But when told how such legislation might impact religious liberty in areas such as hiring and adoption services, Cohen acknowledged, “I haven’t thought about that.”

“Listen, I’m not a career politician so there are some issues that, when people bring things to light, I like to learn about them,” he said.

Cohen successfully won the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor in February but gave up the position under pressure shortly after the primary following revelations about his personal life ? details he said he chose not to hide.

“In 2005, I was going through a divorce and got mixed up in some things that were not healthy for me as a person,” he told the CCI. The father of four, Cohen had not run for office prior to the 2010 campaign season but headed an organization calling for the resignation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Cohen said he would oppose immigration legislation in Illinois that would be similar to Arizona’s controversial law.

“The federal government needs to implement some better restrictions on people who are coming in illegally,” he said, “but as governor I will not separate families.” Still, he said he understands citizens’ frustrations over people “coming here illegally, taking away jobs and costing the taxpayer money.”

While saying moral issues are important, Cohen stressed he feels the number one issue in Illinois is “jobs and the economy.”

“We need to elect a government that has the ability to bring back the jobs and put the people back to work,” he said. “I’ve been in small business my whole life.”

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