Daily Egyptian

Illinois House candidates discuss regional concerns

Forum+moderator+Laura+Van+Abbema%2C+right%2C+explains+some+ground+rules+for+answering+questions+to+Republican+Rep.+Terri+Bryant%2C+left%2C+and+Democratic+challenger+Marsha+Griffin%2C+center%2C+both+candidates+for+the+Illinois+House+of+Representatives+District+115+seat%2C+Friday%2C+Oct.+14%2C+2016%2C+at+the+Carbondale+Civic+Center.+%28Bill+Lukitsch+%7C+%40lukitsbill%29
Forum moderator Laura Van Abbema, right, explains some ground rules for answering questions to Republican Rep. Terri Bryant, left, and Democratic challenger Marsha Griffin, center, both candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives District 115 seat, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Forum moderator Laura Van Abbema, right, explains some ground rules for answering questions to Republican Rep. Terri Bryant, left, and Democratic challenger Marsha Griffin, center, both candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives District 115 seat, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Forum moderator Laura Van Abbema, right, explains some ground rules for answering questions to Republican Rep. Terri Bryant, left, and Democratic challenger Marsha Griffin, center, both candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives District 115 seat, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

By Marnie Leonard

Two candidates running for the 115th District Illinois House seat seemed to agree on most of the issues presented during a public forum Friday, except when it came to the voting record of the incumbent state representative.

Democratic challenger Marsha Griffin, of Jonesboro, cited the 80 times Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, abstained from voting during her time in Springfield. She promised, if elected, that she would vote on every item brought before the Illinois House of Representatives.

“You will never hear ‘present’ from me,” Griffin said, earning applause from the audience.

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Marsha Griffin, the Democratic candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives District 115 seat, answers a question Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, during a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Marsha Griffin, the Democratic candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives District 115 seat, answers a question Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, during a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

The candidates met for the second time within a month, as each is trying to secure the seat amid what has been called a proxy war between Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Both Bryant and Griffin have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from state PACs on either side of the aisle, according to records from the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

At the Friday forum, the candidates were given a series of questions written by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County, whose members organized the meeting.

In response to Griffin, Bryant defended her voting record and two years in office with examples of legislation she helped pass despite her political party’s super-minority status.

“That’s an impressive record for someone who’s been there for a long time,” Bryant said. “But it’s specifically impressive for a freshman in the minority in the House and the Senate.” 

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, who is running for re-election in Illinois House of Representatives District 115, answers a question asked by moderator Laura Van Abbema on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, during a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, who is running for re-election in Illinois House of Representatives District 115, answers a question asked by moderator Laura Van Abbema on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, during a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County at the Carbondale Civic Center. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Bryant added that Griffin was oversimplifying the voting process in the Legislature. She said she only abstained from voting on bills when she didn’t have sufficient time to study them.

Griffin, a 4th grade teacher who canvassed for Bryant when she first ran two years ago, used the word “politician” to describe her opponent in a negative sense, and used her own lack of experience in state politics as a selling point.

“Send a teacher to Springfield, not a politician,” Griffin said, garnering cheers from a number of supporters.

Also discussed was funding for public education, job creation, worker’s compensation and equal pay for women.

Griffin and Bryant agreed that education should be a prioritized in the state budget.

“We owe our children in Illinois a better legacy than what we’re leaving them,” Griffin said. “They didn’t cause these problems, but they’re certainly going to inherit them if we don’t take care of them.”

Bryant said there is a need to fund higher education, especially SIU, because doing so brings more people to southern Illinois and results in job growth for the area.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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