Rodger Cook, the St. Libory Republican running for St. Clair County Board chairman, is challenging incumbent Chairman Mark Kern, a Democrat, to a series of debates around the county.
Cook has proposed a debate in seven towns: East St. Louis, Cahokia, O’Fallon, Mascoutah, New Athens, Freeburg and Belleville.
“Our county is diverse, and each community has its own needs and concerns that must be addressed,” Cook said.
Cook said he wants to bring discussions of issues to the different communities.
“The people want to know the candidates’ positions on many issues, including the NGA situation, the future of Mid-America Airport, crime, fair taxation and truth and transparency regarding the budget and governmental programs and expenses,” Cook said.
“Everybody needs to get engaged and get educated on the issues,” Cook added.
Kern responded to Cook in a letter, a copy of which was provided to the BND, and said he would be happy to engage with Cook during the campaign.
“We would expect this election cycle to be similar to those prior,” Kern wrote. “As in the past, we will be participating with independent entities who will coordinate activities with the St. Clair County Democrat and St. Clair County Republican parties.”
Cook said he would like for the debates to take place at local high schools and would have an independent organization run and moderate the events. He also suggested debates take place from late August through October.
“I would be happy myself to be transparent and get out and be in front of the people,” Cook said. “I hope he feels the same way.”
Cook acknowledged seven debates would be many.
“If Mark Kern wants to do four, I’ll do four. If he wants to do three, I’ll do three,” Cook said. “I would prefer we do as many as possible.”
Cook, a former Belleville mayor who lost re-election to Kern in 1997, also is calling for the current chairman to sign the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.
The state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act encourages people running for office to campaign with “decency, honesty and fair play in order to encourage healthy competition and open discussion of issues and candidate qualifications and discourage practices that cloud issues or unfairly attack opponent.”
“The people are tired of ugly campaigns that distort truth and distract voters from the real issues,” Cook said.
In Kern’s response letter, a copy which was provided to the BND, he referred to Bob Romanik and asked that he behave during campaign events.
“(Because) these events are likely to include people of diverse backgrounds and ages, I would personally ask that you step up and demand your campaign manager and chief funder behave in a non-disruptive and respectful manner,” Kern wrote.
Cook and Romanik are both part of the St. Clair County Freedom Coalition, but are running separate campaigns, Cook said.
He added, Romanik, who is running for state representative and has his own radio show, has not given the GOP county chairman candidate any money.
Cook said he would be raising money through his friends and Joe Hayden, of Belleville, was acting as his campaign manager.