ELMHURST – About 80 people listened as 47th Illinois House District candidates Deanne Mazzochi and Jim Caffrey discussed state issues including gun control during the League of Women Voters of Elmhurst's candidate forum Sept. 16 at Elmhurst City Hall.
Mazzochi was appointed to fill the remainder of former state Rep. Patti Bellock's term after Bellock vacated the seat in July and became the director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Mazzochi also serves as the chairwoman of the College of DuPage Board of Trustees. Until Caffrey resigned to run for state representative in July 2017, he worked in sales at Clorox, managing national convenience stores.
The 47th District includes Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills and Westmont in DuPage County, as well as a portion of Western Springs in Cook County.
The forum provided each candidate with the opportunity to give opening and closing statements and respond to questions posed by the league and audience members.
One question was about the candidates' plans to remedy Illinois' fiscal problems.
Mazzochi, a Republican, said the budget crisis is a consequence of the state not making "hard choices," and hard choices will have to be made to regain good finances. She said as chairwoman of the COD board, she was able to make hard choices, which led to an improvement in the college's bond rating.
"We assessed the situation, planned for the long term and systematically worked with our stakeholders to get the job done. We have to do the same thing at the state level," Mazzochi said.
She said the state needs to have independent pension management boards and asset transparency and increase job growth to build the taxpayer base to avoid raising taxes.
Caffrey, the Democratic candidate, said the state cannot continue to invest in education, infrastructure and human services until it pays down its debt. He proposed prioritizing payment of overdue bills, reducing unfunded pension liability and creating a solid retirement system.
"We need a 3- to 5-year plan to pay back overdue bills so businesses, workers, investors know that the debt will end," Caffrey said.
He said each year's allocation should be a mandated budget line item into the general fund.
Regarding a retirement system, he said the state should consider all options including pensions, 401(k) and Social Security. The solution should be "secure and stable for employees" but also sustainable, Caffrey said.
The moderator also posed a question to the candidates regarding banning the manufacture, sale and possession of assault weapons in Illinois.
"I support practical, enforceable laws that keep weapons designed for the battlefield off our streets and out of our communities," Caffrey said.
He added the real problem facing the country is an inability to have a meaningful conversation about guns.
"If we can learn to understand the other side's position and why they feel the way they do, I believe we can find more common ground than we have in the past and make a compromise," Caffrey said.
Mazzochi said the guns debate is an emotional, multi-level issue that needs multi-level solutions in order to be resolved.
"What I don't want to see is knee-jerk proposals that will only increase the number of illegal weapons that are out on the street," she said.
Mazzochi said she wants to see safe schools and workplaces and less gun-related crime, but she does not want to take away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
She said state and federal prosecutors should enforce existing laws, and creating new laws will not "make a dent" in crime statistics without serious enforcement.
Early voting in the election begins Sept. 27, and polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 6. The Sept. 16 forum will become available in October on YouTube. For more information, visit elmhursttv.com. For more information about the League of Women Voters of Elmhurst, visit lwvelmhurst.org.