10th District candidates debate college affordability, taxes
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:11AM
An audience jam-packed mostly with teens welcomed three of the four Democratic candidates in the 10th Congressional District race Wednesday night at Stevenson High School.
Stevenson’s Political Action Club teamed up with students from the Mikva Challenge, a civics-minded group in Cook County, to organize the one-hour session that featured candidates Vivek Bavda, an attorney from Mundelein; Stevenson alum and community organizer Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan; and Brad Schneider, a management consultant from Deerfield. Candidate John Tree, a business executive and Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from Long Grove, had a scheduling conflict and was unable to attend.
After introductions and statements by each candidate, debate moderators peppered the three candidates with a dozen pre-submitted questions for the next 45 minutes. Topics ranged from why four candidates with no previous office-holding experience were drawn to the 10th District race to which president would they choose as the fifth to immortalize on Mt. Rushmore.
Schneider said the newly redrawn 10th District seat, now held by U.S. Rep. Robert Dold, a Republican, attracted candidates interested in making a difference.
“This is not unique to the 10th District,” Schneider noted. “It’s a function of the times we are in…to get us out of where we are today.”
Sheyman agreed and added that Congress’ approval rating sits at a low 9 percent.
“The last thing we need is the same old, tired ideas,” Sheyman said. The district, he continued, is ready for “real change, for someone who can stand up with a backbone.”
On the Mt. Rushmore question, Bavda said he would select the current president.
“He has broken a barrier,” Bavda said of Obama. “He brings a message of hope and change.”
The bulk of the debate covered more mainstream topics, including jobs growth, making college more affordable and where they stood on corporate tax cuts.
On the college-affordability question — one that resonated with the more than 100 high school students in the audience — Schneider was the first to respond.
“The only way we can do that is to make sure we have multiple pathways to formal education,” Schneider said, pointing to the two top-rated community colleges in the 10th District — College of Lake County and Oakton Community College — as “the best pathway” for some people who ultimately continue their education. He also said he supported increasing the federal GI Bill that awards tuition money to those who successfully serve in the military.
Sheyman said federal jobs legislation needs to be passed to help college graduates who face student loan debt yet encounter few job prospects.
“We have to deal with the student-debt crisis, that means making sure we have more interest-free loans available,” Sheyman said. “If you have a loan with interest, you don’t have to pay the interest…until you get that first job and get on your feet.”
Bavda suggested linking jobs graduates get with their loans.
“If the jobs … don’t actually achieve the income for you after you graduate, some of that loan gets canceled and the university wouldn’t get that type of money,” Bavda said.
On the tax question, Bavda said corporate taxes should be raised and loopholes closed. Sheyman opted for “restoring fairness and balance” to the tax code to stop “squeezing the middle class” and allowing for infrastructure work to be completed.
Schneider said the corporate tax cuts should retire and the entire tax code rewritten.
“I believe in a progressive tax where those who have more should pay more,” Schneider said. “This is about a fair distribution of burden.”
The primary will take place Tuesday, March 20.