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GOP candidates square off at Huntley forum
By Jameel Naqvi | Daily Herald Staff

Republican candidates for state and federal office attended a forum Tuesday hosted by Sun City in Huntley.


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/12/2010 4:40 PM

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One of the risks of participating in a town-hall meeting is that someone might ask a question you don't want to answer.

One of those moments came midway through a forum Tuesday for Republican candidates in the 14th Congressional District and District 25 in the state Senate.

Congressional candidates Ethan Hastert and Randy Hultgren and Senate hopefuls Chris Lauzen and Sean Michels, speaking at a forum hosted by Del Webb's Sun City in Huntley, chose their words carefully when asked if they thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be president.

Hastert, looking to win the seat held for more than 20 years by his father, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, said, "Yes. She obviously meets the - " before being interrupted by a smattering of snickers and applause and continuing, "Yes, she is."

Hultgren, state senator from the 48th District, said, "Yes. She's of age and she's a citizen, so she is qualified to be president," leaving open the question of whether Palin has the experience or ability to be commander in chief.

In the same vein, Lauzen, a 17-year veteran of the state Senate, said, "Yes. Constitutionally qualified. She is not my choice as far as the front-runner."

Michels, Sugar Grove's village president, echoed his fellow candidates, saying, "Yes, she is qualified Constitutionally."

While irrelevant to the races at hand, the candidates' reluctance to come out against a figure popular with many conservatives illustrated how they tried to assert their conservative bona fides ahead of the Feb. 2 primary while positioning themselves for the Nov. 2 general election.

Hastert and Hultgren, who are hoping to unseat Democrat Bill Foster in November, both tried to portray themselves as fiscal conservatives.

"This district needs a fiscal conservative that will stand up to the Democrats' tax, spend and borrow agenda," Hastert said.

Hultgren, though, assigned blame to both major parties.

"Earmarks tripled under Republican leadership in Congress," Hultgren said. "To me, that's wrong."

Lauzen wasn't shy about his differences with his party's leaders, either.

"I'm going to speak up when people are enriching themselves, their family and friends," Lauzen said.

But his primary opponent questioned how Lauzen could be effective while being a thorn in his party's side.

"He can't even work with people in the Republican Party to get things accomplished," Michels charged.