U.S.Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg, was quick to challenge Republican candidate Chris Dargis, of Palatine, during a recent League of Women Voters candidate forum, calling out his opponent’s record on abortion, campaign contributions, the NRA and interpretations of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Hosted by the League of Women Voters- Palatine Area and moderated by a member of the organization’s Wheaton chapter, the in-person forum at Harper College on Oct. 20 was attended by more than 85 people, a few of whom didn’t appreciate Krishnamoorthi’s challenges against the political newcomer.
Incumbent Krishnamoorthi and Dargis are candidates in the 8th Congressional District race in the Nov. 8 midterm election. Krishnamoorthi was elected to the seat in 2017.
During the forum, candidates responded to 14 questions selected by LWV and Harper College students – who also helped time candidate’s responses and rebuttals.
Dargis began with his opening statement.
“I’m running for Congress because Washington politicians have left us behind,” said Dargis, who served as a U.S. naval officer and nuclear engineer for 20 years, along with a career in business. “We have been dealing for two years now with issues with failed policies crushing family budgets and making communities unsafe, and they seem unwilling to help … it’s time for a change this November.”
Krishnamoorthi told attendees he’s in Congress because of his personal story: Born in India, he emigrated to the United States where his family lived in public housing and on food stamps until his father completed his studies and got a job in Peoria where, he said, his family entered the middle class.
He went on to share his accomplishments in Congress.
“I’m proud of my bill that became a law that modernizes vocational education for 11 million students nationally,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I’m proud of my work for seniors to finally lower prescription drug prices starting in January and I’m proud to stand with women—if they don’t have control of their bodies, they cannot achieve the American dream, so I fight for their reproductive freedom.”
Both candidates addressed how inflation is hurting Americans. Krishnamoorthi shared how he feels the Inflation Reduction Act will bring down the cost of gas, groceries and prescription drugs, and impact energy and health care costs.
Dargis criticized the Biden administration legislation, which he said allows for the hiring of 87,000 IRS agents and doesn’t do enough to curb inflation.
“We need to unleash energy production first and foremost, natural gas, oil and nuclear power and bring in this reckless government spending,” Dargis said. “This will drive down inflation.”
He said the act raised fees on energy producers and has not done what it should to restart energy production, which he said is key to fighting inflation.
Krishnamoorthi said the act actually allows for the hiring of customer service representatives and database administrators to replace those who have left the IRS over the last 13 years. He also said the federal legislation institutes a 15% minimum income tax on corporations that make $1 billion in profits, and criticized Dargis for not wanting to make any changes to corporate tax rates, federal or personal income tax rates. Dargis said he wanted to revisit The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
“Going back to the Trump days is not a good plan folks,” Krishnamoorthi said. “It plunged us into the worst recession since World War II with 25 million jobs lost.”
When asked what measures should be taken to reduce violence in communities, Dargis spoke of Chicago police being “hamstrung” by criminals and the system.
“Job No. 1, we need to prosecute crime,” Dargis said, referring to Chicago police and holding Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accountable. “[Criminals] need to be held in jail, they are a danger to society. We need to get federal prosecutors in to do the job … stand up and proudly support our law enforcement.”
Krishnamoorthi said he’s done just that by helping provide $340,000 in federal resources to the Schaumburg Police Department to provide a mobile mental health crisis unit, $150,000 to curb the surge of domestic violence in Hoffman Estates along with funding for the Elk Grove Village Police Department’s substance use disorder program.
“At the end of day, we have to reduce gun violence. I have earned an ‘F’ rating from the NRA after Highland Park [the July 4 parade shooting where seven people were killed and dozens were injured]. I called for more gun measures. My opponent earned an ‘A’ rating because he opposes all of that,” the incumbent congressman said.
Transparency when it comes to campaign finance disclosures was also a point of contention between the two candidates.
Krishnamoorthi called out Dargis for being “personally wealthy” to contribute $365,000 of his own money to his campaign. Federal Election Commission disclosures show that amount makes up the majority of money raised by Dargis who chuckled, along with his wife in the audience, at the comment that he is wealthy. Dargis said he used some of his retirement savings and could not compete with the campaign contributions of his opponent.
After the forum, Krishnamoorthi told Pioneer Press he has raised $8 million for this reelection campaign and has contributed less than $100 of his personal money to his coffers.
The candidates were asked about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I would never, ever vote for any restrictions on abortion that did not include exceptions for rape, for incest, for the life of the mother or for severe fetal abnormalities,” Dargis said, adding he would not support federal legislation on this subject.
He supports states deciding on the issue.
“I would never vote for the extreme policies the Congressman voted on, which is abortion on demand up to the ninth month for any reason, at taxpayer expense, and by the way, without parental notification,” Dargis said.
Krishnamoorthi quickly responded, saying Dargis was completely wrong and misrepresented the congressman’s position. Krishnamoorthi said he was proud that he was endorsed by Planned Parenthood to fight for reproductive freedom and called out his opponent.
“Mr. Dargis has earned the highest rating from Illinois Right to Life, he says he supports banning abortion even in the case of rape and incest—the most extreme of extreme positions,” Krishnamoorthi said, citing an Illinois Right to Life Action report which indicates Dargis is “Fully Pro-Life” without exception for rape and incest.
Both candidates agreed that the U.S. immigration system needs to be reformed. Dargis, who said his wife is an immigrant and his mother was a Ukrainian refugee, said he wants to see the country’s border secured to prevent human trafficking and human suffering. He also said he wants to see more done to support the Ukrainians in the war against Russia. Krishnamoorthi agreed the U.S. must help the Ukrainians fight and win the current conflict so the U.S. doesn’t have to enter the war.
Officials from the non-partisan LWVPA stated in a news release announcing this and other forums it has hosted, that the organization is holding them in order “to help inform and educate voters prior to the November 8 Midterm Election.”
Attendees at the Oct. 20 forum, depending on which candidate they supported, had varying views on the debate.
“I think it was a good debate and really very good questions,” said Nazneen Hashmi, a YMCA board member. “I felt Chris Dargis, he kept bringing up state issues rather than Congressional issues. Personally, I’m a die-hard Raja Krishnamoorthi fan. He’s doing what is right and he is always helpful when anyone and everyone asks for help.”
She added her friend’s immigration status was on hold for four years until she brought her to Krishnamoorthi’s office, which made it happen in a few weeks.
“He’s out there for his community,” she said. “A congressman should be for everyone.”
Some of Dargis’ supporters were not as pleased with Krishnamoorthi’s performance.
“I was disappointed in all of the lies from Krishnamoorthi,” said Randy Collins, 70, of Hoffman Estates. “The biggest one was the way he represented Chris’ campaign contributions. It wasn’t true but he talked like he knew the answers. Let the candidates speak for themselves. He didn’t let the candidate speak for himself.”
Pam Carr, 57, of West Dundee, was impressed with Dargis’ presentation.
“I think Chris’ answers were really precise and actionable, Raja’s were rambling,” Carr said. “He wasn’t making any points. Chris thought about issues and has solutions for them. He has a plan, he has a strategy and he’s going to execute it.”
Elizabeth Owens-Schiele is a freelancer.