Questions turn personal in Elgin candidates forum
By Dave Gathman email@example.com September 26, 2012 5:28PM
Updated: October 16, 2012 3:11PM
ELGIN — The attacks turned personal and the questions turned barbed when the nonpartisan, right-leaning group OCTAVE sponsored a standing-room-only candidates forum Tuesday night for the people running for the Elgin-area state senate seat and for a resident judge position representing the Elgin-Dundee Township area on the 16th Circuit Court.
But the fireworks were not about the race one might have expected.
Incumbent Sen. Michael Noland, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Cary Collins disagreed sharply about taxes, the state budget and how to promote employment. But it was the judge’s race that generated the most heated, personal exchanges.
Challenger John Dalton, an Elgin Democrat, accused incumbent Republican Judge John Walters of lying in his campaign materials and on official reports about what his campaign has spent. Walters faulted Dalton for applying recently to step aside from the legal profession and apply for the job of Elgin city communications director.
Audience members submitting questions to the duo also bared their teeth, with one essentially asking Dalton to admit that he is gay and another referring to Walters’ law school as a “fourth-tier” institution.
Walters is a lifelong Elginite who served on the Elgin City Council for 22 years and has practiced law on his own or with one partner from an Elgin office for 34 years. He was appointed unanimously to the resident judge’s opening by the Illinois Supreme Court a year ago.
Dalton, a member of the Elgin Community College Board, has spent most of his 25 years as an attorney working for large law firms based in Chicago, moving to Elgin 13 years ago.
“My experience in litigation far outweighs that of my opponent,” Walters said.
Dalton said he too would like to “stay positive,” but “John Walters has gone all over town misrepresenting my record and I’ve had enough of it.” Pointing to a card Walters passes out comparing the experience and qualifications of the two, Dalton said, “These are lies. This is not my record.”
He said that as Walters walks door to door, he tells people that Dalton has worked on only six or seven cases in the courtroom. Actually, “I’ve done so many trials, I can’t keep count,” Dalton said.
Walters said he has been endorsed by the Kane County Bar Association, and “these are the people who practice with me and know me best,” while Dalton has not been found qualified to be judge by any bar association. But Dalton said the Illinois Bar Association did not rule him either qualified or not qualified, because fewer than 60 other attorneys had submitted evaluations of him.
Dalton charged that the statement of campaign expenses turned in by the Walters campaign leaves out obvious spending on things like newspaper ads, campaign buttons and brochures.
Walters said that by law, candidates for judge must keep at arm’s length from campaign fundraising and spending, to avoid becoming prejudiced about someone who might come before the court. His campaign treasurer, Craig Hayward, said the campaign has received some “in-kind donations” and most of the spending on campaign materials may have been simply lumped together in the report with campaign signs bought from the same Elgin supplier.
One questioner asked both candidates to explain their spouses. Dalton, who has openly acknowledged being homosexual, said he was legally married in California to Rich Jacobs, but he added, “Shame on the person who asked that.”
Yet another audience member said that while on the city council, Walters voted against allowing the Grand Victoria Casino to open in Elgin, and since then the casino has contributed millions to the city’s economy. Walters said he was one of three council members, out of seven, who voted against the casino because they feared gambling’s impact on individuals. But once the casino became a reality, he began supporting it, he said.
In the senate race, Noland and Collins disagreed along typical Democratic/Republican lines about how Illinois can improve its economy and close an estimated $83 billion shortfall in commitments to things such as teacher pensions.
Noland, of Elgin, said, “Illinois is long overdue for tax reform,” which should include a graduated personal income tax that takes a higher percentage of richer people’s income than it does of poorer people’s. But he said corporate income taxes also might be graduated, so that small businesses pay less than big businesses. He said he sponsored a bill giving tax credits to businesses that hire people. Meanwhile, sales taxes could be broadened to apply to services as well as to physical objects.
Collins, of Hoffman Estates, called for cuts in spending and taxes, relaxing regulations that scare off new businesses, changes to make workmen’s comp less of a burden to business, and term limits for state officials.
“We have royalty down there (in Springfield),” Collins said. “We don’t have elected officials. They spend, spend, spend and tax, tax tax, and every time we send money to Springfield, they crawl all over each other to get to the checkbook.”
Collins said every adjoining state has a lower unemployment rate. “Illinois IS creating jobs — in Missouri and Iowa and Indiana,” he said.
But Noland argued that the state is not taxing and spending too much. “We have the fifth largest economy in the United States but only the 20th largest state budget,” he said.
To rev up the economy, Noland urged spending money on capital projects such as bridges, roads and transportation. He said improving the I-90 interchange with Barrington Road will add 500 jobs alone, and the Elgin riverfront project will add 200.