NORMAL — Despite frequent disagreements, state House candidates Dan Brady and Ben Webb came together on one important thing Wednesday: Their race shouldn't be about partisan politics.
"We can differ on policy, and we do," said Brady, a Republican state representative who's served the area for nearly 20 years. "But my constituent service, my dedication to the people of the 105th District and my ability to work on their behalf in Springfield and back in the district is unmatched."
"I'm pleased to have run a campaign without any intervention for the party establishment," said Webb, a Democrat and first-time candidate. "I entered the race to ensure that voters have a choice this midterm, and a choice for change. ... I think I'm the right candidate."
Brady and Webb generally toed the party line but backed it up with their own perspectives and experiences during an hourlong debate at Illinois State University's University Galleries in Normal.
Brady said frequently the state has a limited role in fixing problems, including health care and renewable energy, given its ongoing budget problems, while Webb referred often to the possibilities of a progressive income tax, which could pay for programs by charging higher rates to those who make more.
"I think people should stop and ask themselves, 'What am I going to pay more money for?' through a (progressive income) tax? ... I happen to believe, before you ask me for more, you show me what you can do with what you have," said Brady. "Priorities of the state should be public education, public infrastructure and public safety. ... We have to get back to those priorities."
"We can get a $2 billion revenue boost just by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share. ... We have one of the most regressive state and local tax systems in the United States," said Webb. "We need to find new ways to bring more money into the state ... closing loopholes, legalizing marijuana."
Webb, a University High School teacher, hit Brady for his votes on higher education funding, while Brady defended his record and said Webb doesn't understand the compromises necessary to succeed in Springfield.
"I understand that you're working hard, but I want to see more. ... I understand it's not easy being in the minority party," said Webb. "A student should be able to go to an Illinois university debt-free."
"I've done everything I can," said Brady, a partner and funeral director at Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Memorial Home in Bloomington. "I worked very diligently to make sure that Illinois State University had a fair appropriation."
Both candidates said they'd like to see more fair funding for universities; increased apprenticeship programs; more money for pensions; and a new infrastructure plan. Both oppose a county-level motor fuel tax, a proposal favored by McLean County officials.