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DeKalb County hopefuls talk issues during Candidates Night forum

County hopefuls talk issues during Candidates Night forum

DeKALB – Term limits and affordable college education were among several subjects that incumbent Jeff Keicher and Paul Stoddard, candidates for Illinois House of Representatives District 70 seat, touched on during the Candidates Night event Wednesday at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

Keicher and Stoddard said they both support the state funding of Monetary Award Program grants for Illinois students demonstrating financial need to pay for college and will continue to advocate for students. When asked about term limits, however, they had slightly different perspectives.

Stoddard said he would support term limits for himself as a retired NIU professor not looking to make another career out of this. He said he’s not all for term limits across the board because he feels that no one in one part of the state should have the right to enforce that for other parts of the state, but he said there absolutely should be term limits for government leadership positions.

“I think a lot of problems that we have can be traced to the stagnant leadership down in Springfield, and I’d like to see some things that help turn that around and get some new blood and new ideas at the top of our government,” Stoddard said.

Keicher said he fully supports term limits and said that his first vote would be against Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan retaining his position. His second vote will be regarding rules and regulations on how laws are passed and whether they will go through rules committees, he said, because Madigan has continued to refine those rules and consolidate his power.

“Had term limits been in place way back when, we would be in a much better place as a state right now,” Keicher said.

Candidates for DeKalb County Board districts, DeKalb County Clerk and DeKalb County Treasurer also participated in the forum, including David Rathke for District 8, incumbent Jim Luebke for District 9, incumbent Doug Johnson and Carolyn Morris for clerk, and incumbent Christine Johnson and Liliana Orozco for treasurer. County Board District 8 incumbent Dianne Leifheit and District 9 candidate Lawrence Nepodahl did not attend.

Luebke said he knows a lot of people don’t get as excited about local government seats compared with state or federal races, but he said part of the job also includes educating people about what county government does, including managing county roads and making sure the county health department keeps running as it should.

“Nobody likes paying taxes, but they want to know their taxes are being well spent,” Luebke said in his closing statement.

Layla Werner, a student at Northern Illinois University and member of the NIU Model Illinois Government, said she originally is from Evanston but is considering registering as a DeKalb County voter. Not only did she and fellow model government members attend for networking opportunities with candidates, she said, but she also wanted to attend the forum featuring county candidates to hear what they had to say about affordable college education.

Werner said she thinks the upcoming midterm election is a particularly important one for college students to participate in, since making college affordable has been a hot topic since the 2016 general election.

“I think that we, as college students, are going to be in extreme debt after we graduate,” Werner, 21, said. “And making it more accessible and more affordable for not just us, but for people who are in lower income communities is extremely important because everybody should be allowed a college education.”

NIU student Paige Leonard, also an NIU Model Illinois Government member and originally from Streamwood, said everyone should participate in the election process, especially considering there are so many millennials but so little voter turnout.

“There’s just not enough of it,” Leonard, 23, said.

Werner said it’s important for voters to learn more about people who would be working for your community and that a lot of people don’t realize how much local government officials are the first line of contact for residents, how that affects the Electoral College and how important those elections can be.

“They’re all going to affect you before the federal government will affect you,” Werner said.

Aurora resident Aileen Garcia, also an NIU student and NIU Model Illinois Government member, said people can be passionate about education, for example, but may not vote for members in their school district’s board when they should. Garcia, 21, said it’s important to vote because the U.S. system of government was created to have elected officials represent you.

“If you don’t vote, then you can’t be represented,” Garcia said.

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