Anti-Tax Talk Flourishes in Illinois
Bush's flip complicates Senate race between no-taxes Republican and pro-taxes Democrat. DIFFICULT PROMISES
THE question is alive and well in Illinois. It dogs Senate candidate Lynn Martin. A reporter asks it in Lawrenceville, Ill. In nearby Carmi, a voter wants to know.Skip to next paragraph
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Congresswoman, they ask, where do you stand on taxes?
No new taxes - the pledge that swept George Bush into the White House two years ago - is a much more difficult campaign promise to make in 1990. President Bush's recent switch on the issue has taken the issue away from most Republican candidates this year. Conservative Republicans who are sticking to the pledge, such as US Representative Martin, are under extremely close scrutiny.
If George Bush can break such promises, skeptical voters and reporters are asking, why can't you?
``Ah, the tax issue,'' Martin says, waving an imaginary cigar in Groucho Marx fashion when asked about it in her campaign van. Her public disagreement with Bush has brought her instant media attention. On the same Sunday two weeks ago, Martin appeared on CBS's ``Face the Nation'' and ABC's ``This Week with David Brinkley,'' talking about the issue.
For her race against incumbent Sen. Paul Simon, a liberal Democrat who talks openly about new taxes, her no-new-taxes pledge is a two-edged sword.
On the one hand, many voters appear to be more cynical.
Senator Simon drew strong applause last week when he told a group of Rockford, Ill., senior citizens, ``Be careful of politicians that promise you one thing before an election and do something else after.''
On the other hand, Martin's no-new-taxes stand still resonates among voters in these rolling clay hills of Democratic but conservative southern Illinois.
Charles O. (Bill) Williams, a registered Democrat here in Carmi, Ill., voted for Simon in 1984. But he won't do that again this year.
``The trouble I see with my party is that the more taxes they collect, the more taxes they spend,'' he says after attending a Martin speech in Carmi. ``No new taxes? We believe in that.''
Martin sounds a similar theme at a local Elks Club rally here.
``I do not believe that there will ever be control of spending with the same spenders that are there'' in Congress, she says. ``I will stand up and oppose the new taxes that they will shove down our throats.''
Martin and her campaign manager, Mark Schroeder, say the tax issue is helping their campaign.
``We believe it's a plus,'' Mr. Schroeder says. ``It elevates an issue that we think we are strong on.''
The stand is especially helpful in the suburbs around Chicago, where Republicans traditionally do well.
According to a poll conducted by the Martin campaign in mid-April, more people cited Illinois's high taxes than anything else as what put the state on the wrong track. Statewide, 22 percent said it was the main problem; in the suburban ring around Chicago, 34 percent cited taxes in that poll. In the two most Republican suburban counties, it was 40 percent.
For his part, Simon is not sure that he will be helped all that much by the tax issue, but he won't be hurt by it either.
``It is certainly not a minus in terms of my own candidacy,'' he says. ``But I think it's a minus for the process. It makes people more and more cynical of everybody in politics and that hurts me. It hurts everybody.''
On the campaign trail, Martin is telling voters that federal tax increases would be particularly harmful to Illinois.