SALINE COUNTY -- An Illinois candidate for governor made an appearance at Southeastern Illinois College's Wednesday night candidate forum, criticizing the influence of special interests on elections.
Grayson "Kash" Jackson, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor and the lone gubernatorial candidate at SIC's forum, said after spending 20 years defending the country in the U.S. Navy, he realized the greatest threat to the country and its citizens is from special interest influence in elections.
"The greatest threat to our freedom, our principles and our values as Americans was not in North Korea. It wasn't in Iran or in China or Afghanistan," Jackson told those in the audience of about 100. "Make no mistake about it. The greatest threat to your freedoms, your liberties and your rights is right here at home."
He criticized all three branches of government at the state level as lacking transparency and accountability.
"If this were 1776, I'd be plucking the chickens and heating the tar as we speak," Jackson said.
Jackson is running against incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann in the race. A Southern Illinois University poll conducted on Sept. 24-29 shows Pritzker favored with 49 percent of the 715 people surveyed.
Rauner was second in that poll, with 27 percent. Jackson was tied with McCann at 4 percent each, with 17 percent of voters polled undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
Jackson criticized political action committee funding of candidates, which he said infringes upon individual freedoms, and said without the support of special interests, his opponents had no reason to participate in the forum.
"Because they won't get in their vehicle without their support team and their staff and drive the 500 or 600 miles down here to talk to you the way I will," Jackson said.
Jackson's comments provided the most fireworks of the night, which also included candidates for circuit judgeships, the 59th District senate seat, the 118th District state representative seat, Saline County Board positions and Saline County officeholder races.
Each candidate had three minutes to deliver their message to those in the audience and those listening on radio station WEBQ, which co-hosted the event with SIC's Student Government.
Representatives of candidates not in attendance had two minutes to give their remarks.
In addition, Saline County Board vice chairman Joe Jackson, who is not related to the gubernatorial candidate, was asked to make a presentation to voters about a proposed increase in the county's public safety sales tax.
The tax seeks to increase the current portion of the county sales tax that goes for public safety, which is .75 percent, or 75 cents for every $100 spent, to 1.5 percent, or $1.50 for every $100 spent.
The additional money raised specifically will go to the Saline County Sheriff's Office, Jackson said.
"Without this safety tax increase, there will be massive layoffs within county government. That includes the courthouse, the sheriff and the jail and the highway department," Jackson said.
Jackson emphasized that the county wants residents to approve the increase the tax, which also will help offset a $900,000 deficit the county currently faces.
"We as a county board did not want to say we were just going to lay off people. We want the citizens and the taxpayers and the voters to make that decision," Jackson said. "It is your right to make that decision. If we did not offer this to you, then you would see a cutback in services to you, the citizens of the county. So that's why we put it on the ballot."
SIC Student Government Co-Adviser Matt Lees said the forum provided voters with a chance to discern candidates in real life, as opposed to the way they are portrayed in political ads.
"This election has generated interest and attention beyond what is typical for a midterm election," Lees said. "This is also an opportunity to see the real people and hopefully the policies behind the flurry of campaign ads."
Candidates who participated in the forum were candidates for 1st Circuit Judge Tyler Edmonds, Amanda Byasee Gott, Carey Gill and Jason Olson; Saline County Board candidates Jay Williams, Bob Oglesby, Bruce Tolley, Wes Sherrod, Ellis "Eli" McEwan and Jonathan Russell; Saline County State's Attorney candidates Jayson Clark and Molly Wilson Kasiar; Saline County Sheriff candidates Whipper Johnson and Ken Clore; Saline County Treasurer candidate Jeff Murrie; Saline County Clerk candidate Julie Dunn; 118th District state representative candidates Natalie Phelps Finnie and Patrick Windhorst; 59th state Senate candidates Dale Fowler and Steve Webb; and gubernatorial candidate Kash Jackson.
In addition, candidates David Overstreet (5th District Appellate Court), Greg Hodson (Saline County Board), Shawn Turner (Saline County Sheriff), Bubba Harsy (attorney general), Mike Leheney (treasurer), Claire Ball (comptroller) and Steve Dutner (secretary of state) were represented by other individuals.
• Part 2, coverage of individual candidates from the forum, will be featured in Tuesday's edition.