The two candidates for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat — both suburban women — challenged each other’s records on women’s rights, abortion access, guns and a bevy of other issues in a candidate forum Monday where little middle ground was found.
In the forum organized by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors collaboration, Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth said her opponent, attorney Kathy Salvi of Mundelein, “wants to rip freedom from women” because of her “dangerous anti-choice views on abortion.”
But Salvi argued Duckworth was an “extremist” on the abortion issue, saying “there isn’t an abortion she doesn’t support.”
Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, reiterated multiple times she supports codifying abortion access as outlined in the now-overturned Roe vs. Wade case.
“The majority of Americans support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about abortion between herself and her doctor with a 24-week viability restriction,” Duckworth said. “There are women who are facing cancer treatment but can’t get access to an abortion so they can have their cancer treated. This is inhumane.”
Salvi said she agreed with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the 50-year-old ruling that decriminalized abortions. States now have the ability to restrict access to abortion services.
“I think it’s properly in the hands of the states’ duly elected representatives,” Salvi said.
Illinois has some of the most relaxed abortion laws in the nation, with a growing number of women from other states seeking services here. Abortion providers from neighboring states have set up clinics in Illinois, just across the state line, to provide services to their residents.
For the first time in Illinois election history, both major-party candidates for a U.S. Senate seat are women.
The two candidates traded barbs over gun control as well during the hourlong forum.
Duckworth said she supports reinstating a ban on what have been called assault rifles and instituting a ban on high-capacity bullet magazines, saying she’s heard from law enforcement the “common denominators in mass shootings are an assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine.”
She argued Salvi would never vote in any way to curb access to firearms because of her “A rating” from the National Rifle Association. Duckworth received an F from the gun lobbying group.
Salvi wouldn’t directly say if she would vote to reinstate what’s called an assault weapons ban. She said local, state and federal Democrats failed to follow existing laws, and that has led to an increase in crime.
“Before we consider passing any new and additional laws, we should let the laws that are on the book be implemented and employed,” Salvi said. “The only thing holding us back in this state is poor single-party government, and it’s hurting; it’s crushing us here.”
Duckworth, a retired Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs when she was shot down in Iraq in 2004, said current laws don’t do enough to curb gun violence.
“I carried an M16 for 23 years in the military,” she said. “I know what those weapons are supposed to do. They are supposed to shred a human body. They don’t belong on the streets.”
When asked about climate change, both Salvi and Duckworth acknowledged the legitimacy of the crisis. But they have different beliefs on how to combat it.
Salvi touted natural gas as a clean fuel that could relieve some of the nation’s reliance on foreign energy sources, but she complained Democrats were pursuing energy alternatives without the proper framework in place to support such a massive conversion.
“It doesn’t make sense to be able to say let’s switch over to renewables before we have the infrastructure,” she said. “And our economy is hurting because of it.”
Duckworth touted her support of legislation that has led to greater pursuit of renewable, clean-energy sources in an attempt to combat climate change. She said her voting record has allowed the country to “position ourselves toward a future where we can fix both climate change and grow our economy right here in Illinois.”
The two candidates are also far apart on finances. Salvi has raised less than $450,000, including a $250,000 loan she made to herself, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Duckworth has a war chest of nearly $8 million and has spent very little during this campaign.
The election is Nov. 8. Early voting has already begun.