On February 23, 2009, the 5th District of Illinois held its final candidate’s forum which included more than 20 people vying for the Congressional seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel who took the post as President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff early this year. This special election has been a circus, with Democrats, Greens and Republicans eagerly jockeying for the coveted office. And while Democrats presumed to battle between themselves, it was the “fringe candidates” who offered a breath of fresh air from the conventional wisdom.
Organizers separated the forum into two segments: the first featured only Democrats; the second included Republicans and Greens. Despite this segregation of parties, it proved suprisingly effective in highlighting the key issues and solutions that differentiate them from one another.
It was Green Party candidate Matt Reichel’s response to a question on Section 8 housing during which the forum took a spontaneous turn. Reichel suggested that domestic issues could be solved once we end the wars and cut the military budget. This was the first time that the Middle East Wars had been brought up. The audience broke out in uproarious applause while the moderator struggled to regain control by asking Reichel to “answer the question.”
Fellow Green Party candidate Deb Gordils seconded Reichel’s answer and added that it was time that people suspend their loyalties to the Democratic Party and vote Green. She too was told by the moderator to “answer the question.”
During the course of the forum, the independent Republican Jon Stewart (no relation to Comedy Central), had surprised listeners with his support for untraditional Republican solutions, including amnesty for illegals and single-payer health care. When he also agreed with Reichel and said you can take care of domestic problems by ending the killing of people, the crowd applauded loudly. Ironically, the moderator’s efforts to gain control and stifle the enthusiasm only instigated further laughter.
Other Green candidates in attendance were Matt Fredrickson and Simon Ribeiro; other Republican candidates included Greg Bedell, Tom Hanson, and Daniel S. Kay.
Kevin Gosztola studies documentary filmmaking at Columbia College in Chicago and is a YP4 2009 Fellow. He is an At-Large Senator for the Student Government Association at Columbia College where he is working to create a Student Civic Collective and increase funding and resources for political and social student organizations on campus. He has also served as a researcher and Production Assistant on several documentaries during the course of the 2008 election, including Polidoc Productions’ “Seriously Green.”