Rep. Roskam, challenger Casten face off in heated forum

The first televised debate in one of the nation's hottest congressional races took place Thursday night right here on FOX 32 News.

Sixth District Congressman Peter Roskam faced off with Democratic challenger Sean Casten. FOX 32 Political Editor Mike Flannery moderated the debate.

There was a sharp contrast right from the start, when the two candidates disagreed about President Trump.

“I think President Trump is the worst president of our generation. Every day he is in the office is a risk to our country and to the global order that we fought to create after World War Two,” Casten said.

FOX 32: how's he doing as president?

“I think middling. So, good on the economy, jumbling on other issues,” Roskam said.

FOX 32: He said trade wars are easy to win. Is he winning?

“Trade wars aren't easy to win. I've been very vocal in my criticism and my concern about the Trump administration,” Roskam said.

The two candidates have totally opposite views of abortion. Congressman Roskam is pro-life and challenger Casten is pro-choice.

“I believe that life in the womb is worthy of protection. I find it shocking that Sean would impose no limitation whatsoever,” Roskam said.

“Here's the distinction. I view abortion as a medical procedure like a gall bladder surgery. I don't want anybody to have to have one,” Casten said.

They also have totally opposite views on the Republican tax cut legislation that took effect earlier this year.

Casten noted reports that workers' real purchasing power has declined 1.4 percent recently, instead of rising as Republicans predicted. Roskam said, basically, "give it time."

Casten’s closing argument was same as Democrats across the country, promising to be a check on President Trump.

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It’s the most closely-watched Congressional contest in Illinois, perhaps in the Midwest.

If veteran Republican Rep. Peter Roskam can hang onto his seat in Chicago’s Western Suburbs, it will be easier for Republicans to retain control of the U.S. House. Should challenger Sean Casten win, Democrats will be well on the way to flipping the 24 seats they need to take the House.

One reason Illinois’s Sixth Congressional is considered a swing district: Democrat Hillary Clinton carried it by seven percentage points in 2016. At the same time, Roskam, first elected to the House in 2006, won re-election by a margin of 18 percentage points. Roskam was a staffer to his Congressional predecessor, the late Rep. Henry Hyde. Roskam served in the Illinois General Assembly from 1993 to 2007. Casten, campaigning as an environmentalist, was an executive of two energy companies, including Recycled Energy Development, LLC.

One key indicator of what’s at stake, cash is pouring into both campaign coffers. The two candidates have already raised more than $6.4 million, with Roskam leading by about 2-to-1 as of June 30th.

Roskam is arguably the most powerful Illinois Republican on Capitol Hill. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he was chairman of the Subcommittee on Tax Policy and now chairs the Subcommittee on Health. Roskam played a pivotal role in writing the new tax law that took effect this year. He argues that, by reducing tax rates and stimulating business development, the next law is putting more money into the pockets of typical residents of the Sixth District.

“In my district, we’re seeing our small businesses grow and families with more money in their paychecks to take vacations, save for retirement, pay for their kids’ college or save for a new home,” Roskam wrote in a press release. “These are significant benefits that are making a real difference in the lives of Americans across the country. And these are continuous benefits taxpayers see in every paycheck and every tax season."

Casten, though, accuses Roskam of misleading voters. Casten notes that the new law abolishes or severely limits tax deductions taken by many homeowners, especially the new limits on deducting real estate property taxes. When they take full effect next year, Casten claims the district’s homeowners will be hit hard.

Roskam’s been an outspoken critic of Obamacare, since it was first proposed by the former President. He has introduced legislation consumers to use Health Savings Accounts in conjunction with low-cost insurance plans sold outside the Obamacare exchanges. Casten calls Roskam’s proposal inadequate.

Casten favors “true, universal health care” coverage. Among other initiatives, he supports a Democratic proposal to allow all Americans to buy into Medicare coverage.

Casten supports “common sense gun regulations,” including an Assault Weapons Ban and a ban on high-capacity ammo magazines. In the 2016 election cycle, the National Rifle Assn. gave Roskam a 93% rating, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave him a zero. Roskam recently broke with gun rights activists when he voted against a law that would have allowed people permitted by other states to carry concealed, loaded firearms in Illinois.

You can watch the forum on Thursday at 6 p.m. on FOX 32 News. We will also be streaming the debate on our Facebook page and website.

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