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BLOOMINGTON - Promising to reverse what several candidates called the "current culture of corruption" and build a prosperous future were common themes Monday night as several Republican office seekers spoke at the 2006 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner.

Laying out their cases for why they think they should be governor were: state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, and businessmen Ron Gidwitz of Chicago and Jim Oberweis of Aurora. State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka of Riverside wasn't there, but her running mate, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, spoke on her behalf.

"I'm the best candidate we've got," Brady said, drawing the loudest applause from his hometown audience. "We cannot stand four more years of (Gov.) Rod Blagovich."

Brady cited his experience from 25 years as a Twin City developer and 12 years in the Legislature. Among accomplishments he claimed was working to reduce the tax burden on Illinois families.

Speaking to reporters before the event, which was sponsored by the McLean County Republican Committee and the Lincoln-Reagan Club, Brady said he is focusing on using growth in state tax revenue to help fund schools to offset property taxes .

"It's so simple it's incorruptible," Brady said of his plan.

Oberweis, a dairy business owner, said he wasn't a politician and promised to be different from some previous governors who he said were corrupt.

"I'm a businessman," he said. "I represent reform and change."

In remarks before the formal program, Oberweis said he wants teachers' pay to be based on merit, not just how long they have had the job. He said there is no other profession where that is the case.

Gidwitz said he could remember when Illinois was a place to get a good job, but the current governor has made that a thing of the past. Gidwitz also promised education reforms, including eliminating what he said where unnecessary layers of government.

"Overall, we need to get rid of the culture of corruption in our state," he said.

Gidwitz also said Blagovich has increased business fees and taxes, slowing Illinois' job creation and economic growth.

Birkett said Illinois is one of the few states where 14-year-old girls can get an abortion without parental consent, and many teens comes from out of state. He said it was time to stop that.

He also said Blagovich had "decimated" state police, and some police cars have over 150,000 miles on them.

Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, another lieutenant governor candidate alongside Birkett, said Illinois has many advantages, such as its deep, rich soil, a higher education system that is extraordinary, and the third largest interstate network in the country.

He said he supports Gidwitz for governor, and they both want Illinois to prosper. Being friendly to business will encourage growth growth, he said.

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Andy Martin of Chicago, did not attend.

Treasurer candidate Christine Radogno of LaGrange said she felt she was qualified to carry on the work of the current treasurer, Topinka. She is the only GOP candidate for the office Topinka is vacating in her run for governor.

"Once this primary is over, I'm going be an A-1 supporter of all candidates after the primary," Radogno said.

McLean County sheriff's candidates Lt. Mike Emery and Lt. Mike Essig also spoke briefly.


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