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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Zinga Earns Peoria Journal Star Endorsement


From today's Peoria Journal Star

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U.S. Congress, 17th District: Zinga

The 17th Congressional District may represent the most egregious bit of gerrymandering in all of America. Carved out to protect incumbent Democratic Congressman Lane Evans, it follows a tortured path from the Quad Cities, down the state's west edge along the Mississippi to the outskirts of St. Louis, and finally to Decatur. Along the way the map-makers took great pains to toss Republican voters Ray LaHood's way in the 18th, while sweeping up every Democrat they could find. If you want to know why voters have so little trust in government and stay home on Election Day, if you want to know why it's so difficult to find quality candidates to mount competitive races and give voters real choices, this district helps explain it.

Suffice it to say, Republican Andrea Zinga has her work cut out as she squares off against Evans' handpicked successor, Phil Hare. After 24 years in Washington, Evans is stepping down due to the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease.

Zinga, 56, of Coal Valley, is a former TV journalist making her second run. Health care and jobs are her priorities. She'd close the "donut hole" in the Medicare drug benefit and means test for participation. She favors federally subsidized community health clinics so the uninsured can get preventive care. She wants investments in agriculture and alternative fuel programs to address the lagging economy in the district, which has lost 14,000 jobs since 1982. Rebuilding Galesburg's economy, crippled by the loss of jobs at Maytag and Butler, around its impressive rail infrastructure would get her attention.

On Iraq, Zinga says she's with her constituents who "deplore the war but believe we must finish the job." She says Uncle Sam should provide better equipment to soldiers with help from the Rock Island Arsenal. On the budget, she says the problem is not tax cuts, but "too much spending." Yet she can't identify one spending reduction she'd favor. If Democrats are the party of tax and spend, Republicans have become the party of borrow and spend. That has to change.

Hare, 57, was Evans' district director for the last 23 years. He is nothing if not earnest, sharing Evans' passion for veterans' issues. He wants a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq. He advocates universal health care. He'd roll back tax cuts for the wealthy. Economically, he favors expansion of lock-and-dam systems and investments in rail and coal technology. His only real disagreement with Evans is on welfare reform, saying that "paying people not to work, not to grow, makes no sense to me."

He describes himself as "pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-stem-cell research, pro-average working man and woman." He sees little limitation on the role of government in people's lives, saying Uncle Sam's job is "to make average people's lives better . . . I'm here to help."

We think a date certain for leaving Iraq is neither realistic nor productive, and do not view reliance on government to solve personal problems as healthy. Beyond that, those in the 17th who wish to cast a protest vote over their resentment at being manipulated, over allowing congressmen to pick their constituents rather than vice versa, should feel free to mark the box next to Andrea Zinga's name. She is preferred.

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