Potential GOP Senate Candidates Speak at Forum

Published May 18, 2003

More than 200 people attended the 2003 Chicago Conservative Conference on Saturday, May 17. The Heartland Institute cohosted the event with nearly a dozen leading conservative and libertarian groups. Following is an Associated Press article generated by the event’s lunch program.

Seven Republicans considering a run for the U.S. Senate, and one who says he’s definitely in the race, gathered Saturday in Chicago to tout their conservative credentials to a group of conservatives.

In what was essentially a meet-and-greet, the men who have expressed in interest in running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald took turns voicing popular conservative themes before the Chicago Conservative Conference, while avoiding any real debate with each other.

“This is a great bunch, and I predict today one of the individuals (here) will be our next United States senator,” said Jim Durkin, the Republican nominee for the Senate in 2002, who was handily defeated by Democratic incumbent Sen. Dick Durbin.

Much of the event was spent talking about tax relief. Not surprisingly, they lined up behind tax cuts, the bigger the better.

“I support the largest cut we can agree on,” said Steve Rauschenberger, an Elgin Republican.

“This tax cut is a very small step for mankind,” agreed consulting firm executive John Borling, referring to the $350 billion tax plan recently passed by the U.S. Senate.

John Cox, a conservative Chicago lawyer who was defeated by Durkin in the 2002 Senate primary, called the tax cut passed by the U.S. Senate “absolutely essential,” before adding that when people are allowed to keep more of their profits from investments they are more likely to invest.

The potential candidates also tried out phrases that will likely become more familiar if they decide to run.

“When I look at Washington I see a system upside down,” said Thomas McCracken Jr., chairman of the Chicago-area Regional Transportation Authority and former state lawmaker. “I see a prevailing ethic where condemned prisoners and mass murderers cannot be put to death but the right to kill innocent children is a sacred constitutional blessing.”

The group was a mix of the familiar in state politics, such as Durkin and Rauschenberger, and the not-so familiar.

Among those for whom the event offered a chance to introduce themselves were Ray Choudhry, a Moline attorney; Chirinjeev Kathuria, a physician and businessman; Jack Ryan, an investment banker-turned high school teacher; and Borling, a retired Air Force major general and businessman.

“I hoped to get better known among Republican voters,” said Ryan, the lone announced candidate.

When it was over, a straw poll was conducted among the approximately 200 people who attended the forum. The winner was Ryan, with 28 percent of the votes, said Greg Lackner, one of the event’s organizers. McCracken came in second place with 17 percent, followed by Rauschenberger with 12 percent. Lackner said Durkin received one vote.