On October 18, 2008, Congressman Mark Kirk and challenger Dan Seals debated before area voters at Deerfield High School. Both candidates are running for the 10th Congressional District, which encompasses Chicago suburbs from Wilmette and north through Waukegan, Illinois. There were more than 800 people in attendance and loads of media reporting and videotaping the debate for later rebroadcast.
Representative Kirk, the Republican incumbent, said he was pro-choice, pro-environment and pro-education. He said that the Washington Post voted him the eighth most independent member of Congress. Kirk said that he opposed President Bush 59% of the time according to the Congressional Quarterly.
Dan Seals, Democrat, is making his second attempt to unseat his opponent. Seals repeatedly linked Kirk with President George W. Bush, citing that Kirk voted with the Bush Administration 90% of the time. Seals attacked Kirk for voting against the equal pay for woman in the workplace bill, also known as the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The heated debaters traded barbs regarding woman’s rights, the Bush administration, and their positions on other social issues. Even though the candidates had a few moments of agreement, the debate was acrimonious, fueled by the crowd eager to wildly cheer or boo either of the candidates.
Part of the exchange was rather sharp. At two different times during the debate, Seals criticized his opponent, Mr. Kirk, by indicating that he had never worked outside of Washington. In response, Kirk said, “That’s right. When I was working in the U.S. Congress, I was serving in the United States Navy.”
Seals on the Iraq war said that he would bring the troops home in a responsible, safe manner, whereas his opponent, Mr. Kirk, has voted more than a dozen times to keep the troops in Iraq. Kirk, however, indicated that as many as eight military bases have been closed in Iraq in recent times, apparently as a marker that the Iraq involvement is winding down anyway.
On the environment, Seals said that the cost of the Iraq war is $195 million per day. He said that with that money, “We could have converted 47,000 cars from gas to electric, we could have purchased the highest quality body armor for 66,000 troops, we could have rebuilt 2,200 homes in New Orleans, and we could have covered health care for 27,000 families.”
Representative Kirk tallied his record on Veteran Affairs mentioning his role in the creation of the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, when the North Chicago Veterans’ Hospital was in danger of closing.
The debate was co-sponsored with the League of Woman Voters of the 10th District and the Union League of Chicago. Many of the partisans were supporting their favorite candidate with placards and signs which lined the driveway leading into the school parking lot. According to recent polling the race in this congressional district is close and contested, and has drawn local enthusiasm from both parties and has even received widespread national attention.
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