Dem. U.S. Senate candidates to debate on ABC7

January 12, 2010 5:59:45 PM PST
ABC7 will host a debate Tuesday night between the Democrat candidates in the race for the U.S. Senate.There are not any profound differences among these candidates on the major issues. All consider themselves progressive Democrats. But the sparks fly when they talk about each other's records.

As Illinois treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias has the most statewide name recognition of any of the Democratic primary contenders. He won election in 2006 with help from then-Illinois U.S. Senator Barack Obama. The favorite of organized labor, his first campaign ads recalled his fight to save 600 jobs at Chicago's Hartmarx plant.

"We sent a message. If you want to do business in Illinois, you have to save these jobs," said Giannoulias.

According to most pre-election surveys, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson is frontrunner Giannoulias' closest competitor. She is supported by African-American ministers and at least a dozen women's groups including Emily's List.

"Now is the time for government to step up and see how to stimulate and support and drive growth, from Wall Street right on down to Main Street. So that's why I'm running," said Jackson.

Former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman entered the race last fall. The former federal prosecutor and Daley administration nemesis spent fours years rooting out waste and corruption at City Hall and wrote a scathing report pointing out flaws in the city's deal to lease its parking meters.

"I have a 16-year public service record of being a leader, of being independent, of fighting for integrity and reform and for fighting for regular people against the powerful interests," said Hoffman.

Other candidates include Chicago attorney Jacob Meister who is focused on jobs and the economy and Robert Marshall, a physician who champions healthcare reform.

"The economy is the central issue. Jobs, and how do we get back on track, so that those good, sustainable jobs for the next century," said Meister.

"I'd also like to see Medicare age down to 60, to help that age group," said Marshall.

In television ads, Giannoulias and Hoffman have dueled over the state's Bright Start program, a college investment fund that lost a net $75 million during Giannoulias' term as treasurer.

"I'm proud to say that we've taken the college savings program from one of the worst in the United States to now what is one of the top five in the country," said Giannoulias.