Tammy Duckworth, Kathy Salvi Spar in Only Joint Forum in Illinois US Senate Race

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth faced a wide range of attacks from Republican challenger Kathy Salvi during the only forum in the race to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate, hosted by WTTW News, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ.

The two faced off in the WTTW studio and wrangled over gun control, abortion and inflation. Audiences in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago asked questions about immigration, while an audience in downstate Urbana asked about the state’s education policies and agriculture subsidies.

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Duckworth, running for a second term in the Senate, defended her record under a barrage of attacks from Salvi, who repeatedly sought to cast Duckworth as a “rubber stamp” for President Joe Biden who is “soft on crime.”

Duckworth defended Biden’s one-time student-loan forgiveness program, which has been put on hold by a judge, from Salvi’s criticism by noting that the Mundelein lawyer took a $200,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan during the COVID-19 pandemic — and then took advantage of a provision allowing it to be forgiven.

“I do think it is hypocritical to ask for loan forgiveness for yourself and your law firm but not for students,” Duckworth said.

Find more about each candidate's platform in our WTTW Voter Guide

Salvi did not answer a number of questions, including whether she would support a proposal to ban assault weapons; vote to support the bill proposed by Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina that would ban abortions after 15 weeks or vote to allow participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program permanent. DACA prevents the deportation of immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children.

Salvi also did not answer what her first piece of legislation would be if elected, and did not name a living Republican on the national stage she admires. After naming Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and Ronald Regan, Salvi when pressed mentioned the two U.S. senators from Iowa “to our east” but did not name them. Iowa is west of Illinois.

Salvi also used a question about the state’s teacher shortage to pivot to blast Duckworth for decisions made by state officials to close schools in 2020 and early 2021 to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Duckworth used that to criticize Salvi, who has never held elected office, for being unclear on what power she would have as a United States senator.

Salvi twice criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot, saying she had not done enough to stop crime in Chicago. Duckworth has endorsed Lightfoot for re-election.

“I think she's running for mayor of Chicago in the municipal elections next year and not for U.S. Senate,” Duckworth said.

Both Salvi and Duckworth said they would respect the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote, and Salvi said the 2020 election was fair.

“Joe Biden is our president, sad as it is,” Salvi said.

Duckworth said she would support Biden’s bid for a second term as president if he runs in 2024, and Salvi said only that she would support whoever the GOP nominates in 2024.

Practically the only issue the two rivals agreed on was that the Chicago Bears should leave Soldier Field and move to Arlington Heights. Duckworth said she would not oppose a public subsidy for the stadium development, as long as there were “tremendous strings” to protect taxpayers.

Duckworth has a 10 percentage point advantage over Salvi, with 8% of voters still undecided, a WGN-TV/Emerson College/The Hill poll released Wednesday found. Salvi has gained eight percentage points in the contest since last month’s poll.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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