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Congressional candidates debate country’s future

50th District State Representative incumbent republican Kay Hatcher democratic candidate Andrew Bernard answer questions during meet candidates night Old Kendall

50th District State Representative incumbent republican Kay Hatcher and democratic candidate Andrew Bernard answer questions during a meet the candidates night at the Old Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville on Thursday, October 18, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 22, 2012 6:30AM

YORKVILLE – They sat a few feet apart, in front of microphones, debating health care, partisan gridlock and the role of government in America.

No, this wasn’t President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — it wasn’t quite that contentious.

But the positions taken this week by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, the GOP incumbent candidate in the 14th Congressional District, and Democratic challenger Dennis Anderson had a familiar ring as the two vie to be part of the Congress that will have to work with whomever is elected president.

The two sparred at a forum at the Kendall County Historic Courthouse in Yorkville, sponsored by WSPY FM radio, and the Kendall County Farm Bureau.

Hultgren said he spent his first term in Congress “very frustrated” with partisan gridlock, and with trying to improve the unemployment rate and keeping spending down.

“We need to get people working, and get the debt down,” he said. “I believe government is too big. My opponent believes government should grow.”

“I don’t believe government should be bigger,” Anderson retorted. “But it should be better. Some believe government is inherently bad. People who have that attitude toward government can’t be expected to practice the art very well.”

The two also disagreed sharply on the Affordable Care Act, the government health care plan passed by Congress, and its future.

Hultgren said the act “is absolutely not the answer to the problem.”

“It’s wrong to have government take over health care,” he said. “The vast majority of this bill needs to be taken away.”

Anderson said he supported the Affordable Care Act, and would support adding a public option.

“The problem is the cost of care,” he said.

Hultgren sounded an oft-repeated claim of Republicans, that the government is taking more than $700 million from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act. But Anderson said Hultgren was not being honest in that appraisal, because that money is savings found in Medicare, and does not come in any way from benefits paid to recipients.

“I encourage you not to take my word for it,” he said. “Investigate that for yourselves.”

Anderson said the same thing about a Hultgren claim that the House the past two years passed 38 jobs bills. Anderson said those were not jobs bills, but bills for other items GOP House members named jobs bills.

The two did agree on favoring passage of the Transportation Bill during this past session, which Hultgren listed as an accomplishment that included bipartisan cooperation. They also agreed that in the coming session, a new farm bill must be passed.

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