Get to know your Democratic Candidates!
The 14th District of Illinois (IL-14) is currently represented by Randy Hultgren, a Republican, though you might be forgiven for not knowing that, since citizens of the 14th haven’t had an open forum meeting with our Representative since April 18, 2017. Starting as early as February 8th and continuing until Election Day, March 20th, voters will select a candidate to challenge Hultrgren for the opportunity to represent the 14th in Washington. Those voters have a big field of candidates to choose from. Seven individuals seek the nomination of the Democratic party and the chance to oppose him.
The candidates share a range of core liberal values and support fundamental planks in the Democratic party platform. Ultimately, each of these people will arrive in Washington as an advocate for the middle class and a necessary check on the power of the Executive. Each of them will be, in the view of this writer, a more responsible representative of the people of the IL-14 than Randy Hultgren.
Still, only one of them can run against Hultgren in November and voters in the Democratic primary have the responsibility to narrow the field of seven down to one. To that end, IL14 United, an alliance of grassroots groups committed to bringing change to IL-14, developed a list of 13 questions designed to highlight some of the ways the candidates differ. Each candidate received the same questions and guidelines. Their responses are linked in full at the bottom of the post – we encourage you to take the time to read them all.
1. Why are you running for Congress?
These are very personal statements on the part of all the candidates and a great starting point for getting a sense of who they are and what’s most important to them. Each candidate draws on their wide ranging professional or personal experience of American values and expresses frustration with our current administration and representation.
2. What are your top 3 policy priorities & why?
The candidates have a variety of priorities, but healthcare, environmental protections, the economy, income inequality and education are shared interests. Review their individual responses to learn more details about their policy interests.
- Income inequality
- Public education funding
- Public transportation expansion
- Secondary education costs
- Climate change & the new “green” economy
- Income inequality
- Prosperity for the middle class
- Easily solvable problems
- Citizens United
3. The United States has been involved in foreign conflict for nearly 20 years and has the largest military budget in the world. What is your stance on our current approach to foreign policy?
All the candidates express their commitment to using “hard power” as a last resort. Brolley, Underwood, and Walz want to encourge diplomatic solutions to conflict, preferably before conflict reaches a head. Swanson, Walz and Weber want to strengthen relationships with American allies.
“We are the super power and much of the world, including those without a voice or power in places of unspeakable violence look to the United States for rescue. However, we should not be involved in stupid, ill-conceived, reckless, unnecessary conflict.” – Roldan-Johnson
“I believe in the power of diplomacy and am troubled by the steps the Trump Administration is taking to gut our State Department, which is critical for maintaining American interests, safety and leadership around the world.” – Underwood
“Our goal must be a coalition of allied forces and diplomacy. Any intervention plan must include clear goals and a draw down plan.” – Walz
“Make the military more efficient…Share the burden of protection with alliances such as NATO and have the other countries take over more of the financial burden…Reduce the mission of the military around the world. Use wars as a last option.” – Weber
“If elected to Congress, I’ll be an advocate for peace by encouraging our leaders to seek diplomatic successes like the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement before considering how they can put our troops in harm’s way.” – Brolley
“Unless our citizenry or allies are directly threatened we should stand down.” – Hosta
4. What is your position on energy policy and how will you go about furthering that?
Investments in sustainability and renewables are the big keywords here. All the candidates support government intervention to either fund clean energy initiatives, discontinue funding fossil fuel subsidies, or both.
“…we need to invest in renewable, clean sources of energy. We need to make it feasible for working class individuals to utilize those renewable sources of energy and encourage communities to invest in renewable sources of energy.” – Swanson
“Because of the dire consequences of global warming, we need to expedite the transition to clean energy. The best way to do this is to implement a carbon tax.” – Weber
5. What is your vision to prepare U.S. citizens for the jobs of the future and to encourage employers to invest in that workforce?
Providing more educational options outside of 4-year college ranks high for Brolley, Roldan-Johnson, Swanson, Underwood, and Weber. Hosta, Walz and Weber focus on the student debt crisis or subsidizing higher education. Underwood and Walz would like to see investment in local infrastructure.
6. How do you think we can most effectively maintain healthy global trade relationships and protect domestic workers?
The candidates have a varied response to this question. Hosta strongly opposes global trade relations. “Fair trade deals” that put American worker’s needs first get support from Brolley, Roldan-Johnson, Underwood, and Weber. Brolley mentions automation and suggests worker retraining. Swanson favors incentives for companies that hire American workers. Roldan-Johnson and Weber both take a look at immigration arriving at slightly different conclusions. Walz makes a point to discuss the goverment’s role in protecting both citizens and small businesses from powerful corporations.
“In order to encourage employers to invest in our workforce we need to incentivize those who provide jobs in the United States and penalize those who send jobs overseas.” – Swanson
7. What do you think the path is for your constituents to receive affordable, quality healthcare?
The candidates show a range of opinions, with support for the ACA as a baseline. Most, like Underwood, recommend improvements to the ACA. Others, like Walz and Weber, strongly prefer a universal coverage option. Brolley and Roldan-Johnson want to see a public option added and Swanson recommends improvements to the ACA with Medicare for All as a stretch goal. Hosta focuses on manipulation in the health care system. Underwood also highlights the opioid epidemic as a critical need.
“The first step of paving the way for affordable, quality health care in the 14th district is stabilizing and improving the Affordable Care Act, not destroying it…I think the best way to improve beyond the ACA is to enact a low-cost public option and a Medicare buy-in.” – Brolley
“Our governing leadership has the responsibility to assure the public of health care and to assure the public that the health care system is free from being a monopolized, manipulated, corrupted enterprise that it has become.” – Hosta
8. What is your stance on women's reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood? What, if anything, would you change with current laws?
Almost all the candidates express strong support for women’s rights to choice in their reproductive healthcare and are pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood. Hosta does not support late-term abortions or using fetal remains for research. Swanson also connects women’s reproductive choice to the wage gap and advocates for equal pay.
“I would fully restore funding for Planned Parenthood. Women’s health is best left up to her, her partner, and their doctor.” – Roldan-Johnson
“I believe that women should have the right to choose, as protected by Roe v. Wade. I am also in favor of funding Planned Parenthood as the best way to reduce the number of abortions that women need to undergo by providing birth control to people who want it. I would not change any of the current laws.” – Weber
9. How can Congress take steps to ensure that the government works for the people and not corporations?
The candidates have several ideas to address this issue. Four candidates would find a way to legislate away the Citizen’s United ruling: Brolley, Roldan-Johnson, Swanson, and Weber. Term limits are important for Hosta and Weber. Roldan-Johnson likes automatic voter registration, nonpartisan mapping, election holidays and open primaries. Underwood favors reinstating the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance reform. Weber would eliminate the Electoral College and partisan mapping, and Walz focuses on broadening the Democratic base by restoring Democratic values.
“My first action in Congress will be to legislate away the Citizens United decision, which polls indicate approximately 80% of Americans are against…I will propose new legislation and then lead the American people in a fight against Congress until they pass it, and then continue on from there, one issue at a time based on what the American people want. For example, polls indicate that 75% of Americans want term limits for people in Congress, 63% want to do away with the Electoral College, 70% want independent commissions to develop Congressional districts and end gerrymandering.” – Weber
10. What do you believe the federal government's role should be in education? (i.e. PreK-12, college funding, etc.) Do you support charter schools, vouchers, or 529s for private education?
All the candidates express their support for strong public school systems and disapproval for vouchers. Swanson would expand public offering to universal pre-K. Pell grant expansion gets support from Brolley, Swanson, and Underwood. Student loans are a notable issue for Swanson, Underwood and Weber. Swanson and Weber state that charter schools must be held to the same standards as public schools. Weber supports 529s in order to save for college; all other candidates oppose them or do not express a view.
“Public education is the backbone of a strong vibrant, free society. I oppose charter schools, vouchers, and 529’s.” – Roldan-Johnson
11. How can the federal government address income inequality?
Using the tax code is the most popular solution. Brolley, Roldan-Johnson, Swanson, Walz, and Weber all favor adjustments that would lower taxes on the middle class and/or raise it proportionally on the wealthy. Raising the minimum wage is also popular. Brolley, Underwood, and Walz all support that. Brolley and Weber want to strengthen unions. Underwood advocates for support for working parents.
12. How do you see the current status of our social safety net and what changes would you like to see made to the programs?
The seven candidates all say that the social safety net is under attack and needs shoring up. Hosta would invest in opportunities in struggling geographic areas. Roldan-Johnson favors a wide expansion of benefits funded by increasing taxes on the wealthy. Brolley, Walz, and Weber would raise the cap on Social Security tax to cover rising costs. Swanson prefers funding an expansion to Medicare and Medicaid by moving to a single payer system.
“If elected to Congress, I will strongly defend against any and all cuts to Social Security, including raising the retirement age, adoption of ‘chained-CPI’, or any benefit cut…I believe we should expand Social Security benefits, so current and future retirees don’t have to live out their golden years in financial distress. To do this I will push to eliminate the payroll cap for incomes over $500,000 per year, to broaden the base of this tax and make it fairer and more evenly distributed.” – Walz
“We need to assure the strength of our existing Social Security system into the future. The best way to improve funding for Social Security is to remove the cap on contributions to the system so that the wealthiest Americans contribute more…We need to develop a new portable, mandatory retirement savings system which improves on the 401(k) and includes specified employer contributions to supplement Social Security…And regarding Medicare and Medicaid, these need to be incorporated into a better healthcare system…” – Weber
“I see the current status of our social safety net being threatened…One of many changes that need to take place is the encouragement and establishment of programs to creates businesses and employment in key financially struggling geographic areas.” – Hosta
13. Tell us three things about yourself that we may not know. (what book you're reading, personal hero, pets, etc. Be as serious or fun as you want.)
For the fun answers…you’re going to have to check out the individual responses! We offer a sincere thank you to our candidates for taking the time to thoughtfully complete our questionnaire.
**Check out our events page for opportunities to meet the candidates, & please like and follow IL 14 UNITED on Facebook or sign up on the contact form on our home page to stay up-to-date!**
- Writer: Kate Garrett