Last night, I attended Tenth Dems University Meet the Candidates forum featuring Lt. Governor candidate Sheila Simon. I'd met Simon once before very briefly and had the impression that she was shy. However, last night I found her to be very warm and personable. That's No. 1.
No. 2 is that she plays the banjo in a local band.
Nos. 3-12 include a list Simon went through. These are her 10 strongest disagreements with Republican candidate for Governor, Bill Brady:
3. Brady supports teaching creationism in the public schools. Simon disagrees.
4. Brady opposes abortion in all cases, including cases of rape or incest. Simon disagrees.
5. Brady sponsored a bill to allow animal shelters to kill more animals at one time. Simon disagrees. (Democat says "ick".)
6. Brady voted against a repair and deduct remedy for tenants. Simon explained that repair and deduct is an important remedy for low income tenants who live in rental units in need of repair. If the tenant cannot afford to make the repairs himself and pay the rent, with this remedy, the tenant is allowed to deduct the cost of repairs from the rent without risking eviction.
7. Brady voted against FMLA. Simon favors family medical leave.
8. Brady voted against requiring health insurance companies to cover prostate or mammogram screening. Simor would require such coverage.
9. Brady voted against requiring health insurance companies to cover a set minimum stay after delivery of a child. As a mother who was booted out of the hospital right after the birth of a child, Simon would require this coverage.
10. Brady is against including sexual orientation in the Illinois Human Rights Act. Simon favors inclusion of sexual orientation in the human rights law.
11. Brady opposes videotaping of murder suspect interviews. Simon favors the videotaping because "it's the right thing to do."
12. Brady opposes many of the Illinois Reform Commission proposals that Simon supports and helped create including improvements to the open meetings act, contribution limits and disclosure of contributions.
The meeting included the obligatory discussion about Illinois pensions. She favors protecting pension rights and pointed out the constitutional requirement.
Simon admires Quinn for his stand on tax increases when it's not the popular thing to do because we need to fund the public schools. A young man from a Waukegan High School asked Simon about the teacher layoffs, adding that some of the best teachers from his school were let go because they were also some of the youngest. The student commented that his struggling school was not going to survive with so many teachers and para-professionals eliminated.
Another audience member asked how we can cure the corruption in the state. Simon said we need to change the political culture and mentioned that our continued involvement, as individual citizens working in groups like Tenth Dems, helps that happen because we are consistently watching and do not disappear between election cycles.
Simon believes in being open and respectful to the ideas of those on the right, but is concerned about the absolutes invoked by the Tea Parties. One of those absolutes with which she disagrees is that government is always a bad thing. She thinks we should all be able to agree that the state keeping the Ford plant from moving to Indiana was a good thing, as are small business tax incentives to hire.
Simon believes something she learned from her father who learned it from his mentor, Senator Paul Douglas: start off shooting for something big, and then understand that small changes might end up being as big as the big changes.
Follow Ellen Gill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EllenBethGill