Democratic Senate candidates spar in Tribune ed board

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CHICAGO -- On Monday the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate made their first joint appearance together in front of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Among the issues the candidates drawings contrasts: criminal justice reform and improving police and community relations. There were fireworks Monday between the two African Americans in the race, State Senator Napoleon Harris and Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp.

"I’m happy to hear Senator Harris opine on this issue, but he’s been largely silent on this critical issue facing our community as has Congresswoman Duckworth," said Zopp.

"I’ve been at this issue my whole life," said Harris, "because I’ve been in the community talking with people who directly this impacts."

Added Harris,  "I didn’t see Ms. Zopp out in the protests. It’s easy to go on Twitter and Facebook and write a quote. That’s not real getting out in front of the issues."

Harris says he showed leadership by writing a letter to the federal government asking for an investigation of Homan Square, which has been described in court papers as an off-the-books Chicago police detention and interrogation center.

But Zopp says police misconduct is personal to her, and as head of the Urban League she’s worked on these issues.

"The reason that it’s important that the federal government engage is because this is not just a Chicago issue," Zopp said. "It is certainly a crisis here but it is an issue across our country that we have to address."

For her part Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth says she’ll strengthen gun laws, work to reduce minimum sentence requirements and pursue prison reform.

"We can’t throw away a huge percentage of our population and not give them an opportunity to succeed and have an opportunity to move away from the conditions that led to being in prison in the first place," Duckworth said.

Duckworth enters the campaign with an advantage in fundraising. She started the year with $3.6 million.

Zopp and Harris are vying for support among American Americans. That’s why Zopp is more than happy to attack Harris, a football player turned state senator serving his first term.

"Leadership is great, but if it’s uninformed or inexperienced it can’t get things done and the fact is you have limited experience," Zopp said.

Said Harris, "I’ve gotten things done and I’m going to be an effective leader in Washington."

The candidates agree on most major political issues such as improving Obamacare and closing tax loopholes for the rich. There will be at least two other candidate debates or forums coming up.