Primary concern

The 2014 midterm election season officially kicked off with Tuesday’s primaries in Texas. Illinois will follow suit on March 18, with national, state and county contests on the ballot.

Four local Republicans are vying for the party’s nomination to challenge 11th U.S. Congressional District Rep. Bill Foster when the Naperville Democrat seeks re-election next November.

Among the contenders are Darlene Senger, a former Naperville City Council member and city resident now working in the Illinois General Assembly; Ian Bayne of Aurora, a conservative radio talk-show host and small business owner; Hinsdale resident Bert Miller, the former head of a Naperville manufacturing company; and Chris Balkema of Channahon, a Caterpillar executive now serving on the Grundy County Board.

A fifth contender, Lisle resident Craig Robbins, recently announced plans to withdraw his candidacy, citing the demands of his work as a career consultant and his military commitment as an officer of the Illinois Army National Guard.

Senger, 58, is putting most of her focus as a primary hopeful on repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. She also vows to take aim at federal spending and regulation if elected.

For Bayne, 40, the election is about restoring freedom, although he names health care reform as his top priority as well, saying it needs to be repealed and the former insurance system restored.

Miller, 66, who last year stepped down as CEO of family-owned Phoenix Closures Inc., names debt reduction, balancing the budget and creating jobs as his top priorities. Miller’s political war chest, recently reported by his campaign at $247,185, is by far the largest in the primary race.

Balkema, 42, cites the national debt as a top concern as well, calling it a threat to national security, and also will press for repeal of the Affordable Care Act if he prevails in the primary and again in November.

Chris Balkema

Age: 42

Home town: Channahon

Job: purchasing manager, Caterpillar Inc.; Grundy County Board member

Family: wife Jill; sons Luke and Max

Ian Bayne

Age: 40

Home town: Aurora

Job: small business owner; radio talk show host

Family: wife Carolyn

Bert Miller

Age: 66

Home town: Hinsdale

Job: owner and recently retired president, Phoenix Closures Inc.

Family: wife Dee Dee; adult children Giles, Deidre and Albert

Darlene Senger

Age: 58

Home town: Naperville

Job: Illinois state representative, District 41

Family: adult children Eric and Michelle

Talking issues

1. It’s no secret that Congress is seeing some very low approval ratings these days. Why do you want to join the House of Representatives?

Balkema: I am running for US Congress in the 11th District of Illinois because we need to save our country. I am eager to take my 20 years of Caterpillar leadership experience and get to work for the voters in District 11. I know how to create jobs and stimulate the economy. By adhering to the capitalistic model, our economy can grow and everyone will benefit. I will put my career on hold to get the job done in Washington and come back in the manner that the framers of the Constitution intended.

Bayne: I don’t want to join to be a part of what’s going on, I want to join to stop what’s going on. Lack of people like myself is why there are such low ratings. Congress is not a “get rich quick” club, it’s a very serious place where the people should have a say on what’s going on in Washington.

Miller: Two words, Jobs & Budget. Every resident of the 11th district shares the American dream but the fact is that the United States is struggling. I will go to Washington D.C. to help solve our nation’s fiscal problems. We cannot afford to play “small ball” anymore or continue kicking the can down the road. The United States cannot continue spending more money than it generates. It’s a losing proposition for America and it’s not fair to saddle our kids and grandkids with our debt.

I am not a politician and I’ve never run for office but last year’s shutdown of the government was the tipping point for me. I decided I could no longer sit back and complain; I must try to do my part to make things better. I believe that better days are ahead for America if we have leaders who are willing to work together – without bipartisan fighting – to get results for the American people. Compromise is not a dirty word and can be accomplished without abandoning a person’s principles.

I am the former President of Phoenix Closures, a local manufacturing company based right here in Naperville. Our family business has been around for more than a century and employs hundreds of workers, providing good pay and health care coverage. I’m extremely proud that we only use American-made supplies that help other businesses create good jobs here in the USA.

I’m running for Congress to achieve two major goals. 1) We need to balance the federal budget and get our debt under control while 2) creating an economy that supports job growth and capital investment.

Senger: The federal government has more than $17 trillion in debt. The amount is staggering and the bills are starting to come due. But instead of addressing the problems faced by our country, Congress decided to make it worse by increasing spending through the expansion of new programs like Obamacare. Without significant changes the financial future of our country is in peril and I want to step up and help solve the problems Washington is facing. Before getting into public service, my background was a financial planner, and I want to start planning a bright financial path for our country.

2. Of all the interests that directly concern residents of the 11th District, which ones do you consider most important, and how will you represent them in Washington, DC?

Balkema: Our country’s national debt is our greatest security risk. I will drive accountability in Washington and balance the budget.

Obamacare is unsustainable and will lead the United States of America to financial destruction. We must repeal and replace it with free market health care principles – like allowing insurance to be sold across state lines and eliminating the bureaucratic “insurance exchanges”.

I have worked at Caterpillar for the last 20 years and I know how to create value added jobs. I will lead the charge to cut income taxes in half, bring stability to small businesses and allow them to begin investing in America again.

Bayne: The most important issue is Obamacare, because Obamacare is the primary cause for the loss of jobs, fear of small business owners like myself to grow due to not understanding the law, loss of freedom, loss of quality healthcare, loss of good doctors who are retiring, and loss of choice. We must repeal Obamacare and replace it with the health insurance that Washington took away from us this year.

Miller: As I travel throughout the 11th Congressional District the number one issue on The minds of voters is the economy. At 8.6 percent, Illinois has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the United States and we’ve recently seen the slowest job growth in the last three years due in part to President Obama and Congressman Bill Foster’s support for higher taxes and more regulations. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently announced that President Obama’s minimum wage hike would lead to the direct loss of 500,000 jobs.

Job creation and reducing our nation’s debt are my top priorities and will be my primary focus.

As the transportation hub of the nation, we need a comprehensive and long-term infrastructure program that will ease rail congestion, extend METRA into Kendall County, and build roads and bridges. Priority should be placed on jobs for our returning veterans who have honorably served our nation. I’ll work with Senator Mark Kirk who’s been a great leader on these key issues.

I don’t think that anyone — Democrat or Republican — can deny that the rollout and results of Obamacare have been an abject failure. Four years after passage, Obamacare has not reduced health care costs, increased access to care, or improved health outcomes for Americans. My company has always provided comprehensive health care benefits to our employees — because it is the right thing to do — but under the new law we could be penalized because of nonsensical bureaucracy. I support repealing Obama Care — or at least overhauling it — and replacing it with patient-centered reforms while eliminating wasteful government spending to improve care, reduce costs, and help small businesses.

Senger: The number one issue will be to start repealing Obamacare. Obamacare has caused job growth to come to a halt because of the uncertainty. This is a manufacturing hub surrounded by small businesses that make this economy run. We over regulate businesses so much that they spend more time trying to make sure they are following every federal guidelines rather than spending that time expanding their business and creating more jobs. We also need to make it easier to do business here. We need to give business owners the clarity and economic certainty that is being held back by these reckless programs like Obamacare.

3. As a member of the U.S. House, what are three things you would do differently from how Congressman Foster has done them since he took office?

Balkema: First, unlike Bill Foster, I will be accessible to the people in District 11. I have returned every email and phone that I receive from the voters in my county board district and I will continue this as your congressman in District 11. The residents of District 11 are my bosses and I must report to them on a regular basis.

Secondly, as I stated earlier, I create jobs in District 11 and American. With his voting record, Bill Foster has done the opposite. By cutting the tax rate to 25 percent, cash will be invested that has been pent up on the sidelines. We will see a manufacturing boom in the United States that we have not seen in 50 years.

Thirdly, I will lead the charge to install term limits for Congress – something Bill Foster would never do. Think about – if we get term limits in place, our nation would be a far different and better nation! It would allow us to get rid of the narcissistic career politicians that hinder our nation’s progress.

Bayne: 1. Represent American citizens instead of illegal aliens; 2. Vote to repeal Obamacare; 3. Vote to lower taxes and cut regulations

Miller: Three issues: Obamacare, tax relief for working families, and election privacy.

As a member of Congress, my responsibility will be to represent the hard-working families of the 11th district. Voters are not electing a congressman to be a rubber stamp for President Obama, Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi or well-funded lobbyists like union bosses who have given him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, Congressman Foster seems to have forgotten about those who honored him with their votes. In his first term, for example, Bill Foster voted with Nancy Pelosi nearly 93 percent of the time, many times on issues that didn’t reflect our values.

First and foremost, while I support key concepts of health care reform, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions. I would not have voted for Obamacare. The horrendous rollout and startup computer problems were the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, Bill Foster voted for the ACA and later admitted that he didn’t read the bill or even the Congressional Budget Office analysis. It’s too bad that he didn’t read the CBO analysis. Two weeks ago, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Affordable Care Act advocated by President Obama and Congressman Bill Foster will reduce America’s labor supply by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers by the year 2024. The CBO’s revised estimate triples its earlier projection that the ACA would cost the economy 800,000 full-time jobs.

There is no doubt that there were problems with our healthcare system but we can fix it with real patient-centered reforms that improve health care and lower costs.

Secondly, I believe that families and businesses need tax relief. Bill Foster disagreed and voted against tax relief contained in the Bush tax cuts that included reductions in the income tax rate, doubling the child tax credit, raising the contribution limit for Coverdell education savings accounts, and reducing the marriage penalty tax. Bill Foster even opposed efforts to repeal the estate tax that impacts many farmers and small family businesses.

Finally, Bill Foster sponsored and supported federal “card check” legislation that would have allowed union bosses to eliminate the private sanctity of the voting booth in union elections. I believe that every American is entitled to a right of privacy when they enter a voting booth – whether it’s to elect a President, Member of Congress or union representation. Eliminating the private voting booth is an affront to American democracy.

As a member of Congress, the public will know exactly where I stand on issues and I will be readily available to voters and the media. I plan on hosting holding town halls, traveling the district, and constantly communicating/listening to constituents in person. Voters tell me frequently that it’s difficult to get responses from Congressman Foster about key issues and that he avoids many town hall meetings and community events.

Senger: My first goal is to fight against Obamacare and repeal it before it completely destroys our nation’s healthcare system. Next I will cut spending, create a balanced budget, and work towards a goal of having our country be debt free. Finally, I will work to create jobs by forcing the Obama administration to repeal burdensome regulations that increase the size of government at the expense of business.

Washington needs people who are ready and willing to stand up to the special interests and solve our country’s problems, not another political insider who will work to maintain the failing status quo.