Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi had a simple answer when asked how, if chosen by voters in a March primary, he would be able to defeat a Republican incumbent in the 8th Congressional District.
"Do you now who our incumbent congressman is?" Krishnamoorthi said with a smile as the room at the Palatine Public Library broke into laughter at the reference to self-described TEA Party Republican Congressman Joe Walsh.
"I say very loosely that he represents me in Congress. He does not. He represents everything that's wrong with that institution," Krishnamoorthi said.
Krishnamoorthi and Tammy Duckworth will square off in March for the opportunity to take Walsh on in the November general election. Walsh has served one term in Congress after . Although Walsh is the incumbent Congressman in the 8th District, the 8th District was substantially changed in redistricting. So much so, .
Most of Buffalo Grove lies in the 10th Congressional District, but a portion is served by the 8th District.
The Saturday morning forum was hosted by the Palatine Township Democratic Organization.
Duckworth was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the Iraq War who lost both of her legs in 2004 after her helicoter was hit by an RPG. She has served as Director of Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs and was Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Obama.
"This time is bonus time for me because I should have died in Iraq," Duckworth said, adding, "It means that I can stand up for what I believe in. It means I don't care what they say about me. My worst day of doing that could never be as bad as having an RPG blow up in my lap. And I dare them to come after me."
She said Walsh was about "extremist" politics that was trying to deal with the budget deficit on the backs of country's most vulnerable citizens. She pointed to her work with veterans and her time running four nursing homes for the state as examples of her leadership and ability to find cost effective ways to deliver needed services.
Duckworth said she has a jobs plan that focuses on investments in education and infrastructure. She said that there is a growing inequality in the tax burden faced by smaller businesses as opposed to larger corporations. She said some larger companies are able to manipulate the system to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Duckworth supports the Affordable Health Care Act, but said the country should continue to move toward a single-payer system.
"If I had been in a car wreck on I-90 my family would be bankrupt," Duckworth said, referring to her $120,000 artificial legs and her $4,000 wheelchair. "I would have had to negotiate with an insurance company, 'Please let me buy legs because I would be so much more mobile than with the wheelchair.' I never would have won that battle."
Krishnamoorthi, 38, of Hoffman Estates, also is supportive of health care reform. Krishnamoorthi is president of Sivanathan Laboratories in Bolingbrook. He also served as a special assistant Attorney General under Lisa Madigan and was deputy treasurer for Illinois.
Krishnamoorthi said the top issue for him is the economy. Among the measures he supports is extending the payorll tax cut, maintaining and extending unemployment benefits, investing in infrastructure such as schools and roads, and addressing the housing crisis by allowing principal reductions on some of the 11 million homes that currently are "under water" on their mortgages.
He said that after his family immigrated from India his father lost his job. He said the family lived in public housing and took food stamps. "In short, we were able to have a shelter from the storm."
Krishnamoorthi said concerns about wealth and income inequality has nothing to do with envy.
"It is not envy we're concerned about," Krishnamoorthi said. "It's about social mobility and upward mobility. It's about how someone like me can start out as nothing and become something."