Congressional District 17 candidates
U.S. Rep. Phil Hare and Republican challenger Bobby Schilling. Times file photos
In their only televised debate, U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., and Republican Bobby Schilling clashed on a range of issues.
Hare said he would fight for middle class people, including extending tax breaks for them but not the wealthy.
Schilling, meanwhile, said it was time for a "clean break" from "career politicians."
The pair also differed on Social Security, how to create jobs, federal funding for stem cell research, immigration and abortion.
The hour-long debate, hosted by public television station WQPT, brought the two to the table after weeks of often contentious negotiations. It was recorded Tuesday and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. today.
Green Party candidate Roger Davis, of Quincy, also took part.
Hare and Schilling are locked in a close contest for the 17th Congressional District seat, a race that has drawn nationwide attention and more than $3 million in outside spending.
While mostly civil, the debate presented a clear distinction between the two.
On the economy, Hare said thousands of jobs are coming to the district. He previously has said such projects as the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center will lead to new jobs.
He also said during the debate he planned to introduce a bill forgiving college loans for students who go into "underserved" areas and work for five years.
Schilling, meanwhile, said he would give tax breaks to the "job creators," and he faulted Hare and the Democratic-led Congress for adjourning before deciding whether to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent.
Schilling zeroed in on what he called "job-crushing" bills passed by Congress, including a cap-and-trade proposal he said would cost the average household $150 per year. "We can't afford to put more people out of work, Congressman," he said.
Hare responded that Schilling doesn't have any real job-creating ideas and that his plan to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts would give a $700 billion benefit to the wealthiest Americans "who for 10 years have had a tax holiday."
On stem cell research, Hare said he supports federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. Schilling, meanwhile, said he supports adult stem cell research.
They also differed on abortion.
Hare supports a woman's right to choose. Schilling is anti-abortion rights.
The two did agree on the estate tax.
Both said they would eliminate it, saying it hurts family farmers. Many congressional Democrats have said that would mean a windfall for the wealthy rather than provide much help for family farmers.
The two also clashed on Social Security.
Hare faulted Schilling for his part in an interview with a conservative website in which a participant suggested he get rid of "any progressive agency" going back to Theodore Roosevelt.
Schilling chuckled on the program and said "OK. I love you guys, man."
Hare said at the debate it was no laughing matter, adding, "Bobby, you are the only person at this table who could come up with something that bizarre."
Schilling countered that Hare had voted for jobs legislation earlier this year that diverted $47 million from Social Security.
Hare has disputed that claim.
Schilling also called Hare's claim false, and he said in an interview after the debate he was simply acknowledging the end of the interview with the conservative site.
"I did not agree with that whatsoever. That's ridiculous," he said.
Hare also accused Schilling of wanting to raise Social Security and Medicare taxes, pointing to a Chicago Tribune questionnaire. Schilling, whose campaign has said the survey was "misphrased," said he would signed a pledge not to raise any taxes.
Schilling said the debt had increased $5 trillion since Hare took office and unemployment has gone up.
For his part, Davis said Hare and Schilling symbolized the politics that have led to the country's problems. But he saved his sharpest criticism for the Republican.
At one point, the moderator, WQAD's Jim Mertens, asked the trio to say something nice about the others.
Hare and Schilling did so, and Davis praised Hare. But of Schilling, he said: "If I shook hands with him, I'd have to count my fingers and check my billfold ..."
Afterward, Schilling shrugged off the remarks and said he had worked hard to include Davis in their joint appearances.
The debate, along with airing on WQPT, will be shown on the cable network C-SPAN on Thursday, but WQPT officials didn't have a time for it.
Initially, no provision had been made for reporters to observe the taping, but that was changed.