PRIMARY 2018 QUESTIONNAIRES: 13th Congressional District Democrats

PRIMARY 2018 QUESTIONNAIRES: 13th Congressional District Democrats

Illinois' 13th Congressional District covers a large swath of the central part of the state, stretching from Bloomington-Normal on the north to the St. Louis suburb of Glen Carbon on the south and from the Missouri state line on the west to Champaign-Urbana on the east. Included within its borders are all or parts of Bond, Calhoun, Champaign, Christian, DeWitt, Greene, Jersey, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, McLean, Montgomery, Piatt, and Sangamon counties. A map from the Illinois State Board of Elections is below:

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Jon Ebel, Urbana

1. What would make you a better representative for the 13th Congressional District than the other Democratic candidate?

My adult life has been defined by service. I served in the military. I served as an internet literacy teacher on Chicago's South Side. I serve now as an educator in our amazing land-grant university. I see the title of "congressman" or "representative" as two different ways of saying "public servant."

In my capacity as a public servant, I have always been a listener. In Naval intelligence, I listened to my sailors and tried to give them the help and the space they needed to grow professionally. As a teacher, I listen relentlessly to my students as I teach them and work with every new class to build a sense of community. In my research, I have made it my mission to listen for the voices of common men and women and to weave them into the history of religion in America. Someone who seeks to represent a district in Congress must be not just willing, but absolutely committed to listening to the voices of constituents, not those of entrenched elites or special interests. And listening to people's voices is what I have done for the past quarter-century.

Additionally, I am the only veteran in this race, Democrat or Republican. I am the only candidate who knows what foreign policy feels like and has lived the cross-partisan life that the military requires of its officers and enlisted personnel. I was among the most politically progressive officers wherever I went, but I was committed, as were those with whom I served, to working together in spite of our political differences. We need this cross-partisan spirit in Congress. We need people who will fight for what is good and right. But we also need people who are committed to building consensus, building trust, and getting Congress working again.

2. Would you pledge to have regular "town hall meetings" or other general audience sessions with your constituents if elected?

I was the first candidate to sign CU Indivisible's Constituent Communication Pledge. In this pledge, I promised to hold at least one in-person town hall per quarter (I will hold one per month) at a variety of locations accessible to significant portions of my district. I think it is tragic that Rep. Rodney Davis doesn't understand this basic requirement of democracy. Part of being a representative should be listening to constituents and doing one's best to actually represent their desires. I will do that regularly and gladly.

3. If you could draft an ideal national health care plan that is also affordable, what would it look like? Please be as specific as possible.

Congress should pass HR 676 and make expanded, improved Medicare for All the law of the land. As I think about the future of health care policy in the United States, I ask myself a simple set of questions: What is the right number of babies that can't see a doctor? What is the right number of families bankrupted by a chronic illness? What is the right number of hospitals that go bankrupt because they aren't being paid for the care they provide? For me, that number is zero.

For those who want to tweak the ACA, to plug a few holes here and there, the right number of uninsured people is in the tens of millions. For those who want to repeal the ACA, the number exceeds 70 million. This is morally wrong. It also happens to be fiscally devastating. We spend more than any other nation in the world on health care and achieve results that are mediocre at best. The cost of those mediocre results extends far beyond the dollars spent. An unhealthy population, a population hindered from seeking medical care, is harmful to the economy and places unnecessary pressure on our social service networks and on the social safety net. Congress needs to recognize these truths and to act on them. We can recreate the system that we have, which is actually a sick care system, and create a true health care system, that is more efficient, more effective, and more just.

When reflecting on Social Security's passage, President Franklin Roosevelt famously said: "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program."

When considering how to pay for health care, this attitude should at least be considered. This is why I would recommend a broad-based revenue source, such as a payroll tax or value-added tax. This would have to be coupled with some provision for the most vulnerable in our society, given the regressive nature of both taxes. For instance, the first $25,000 in payroll would be exempted from payroll taxation. In addition, some of single payer's cost could be borne by income taxes, which are progressive.

If single payer is able to achieve dramatic-enough cost controls, taxes can be kept to a minimum. Families are likely to save money under single payer, in terms of annual payments to an insurer.

4. Are there additional gun laws or changes to existing gun laws that you would support to reduce gun violence in the United States? How would your position balance with Second Amendment concerns?

Yes. Gun violence is a public-health crisis in the United States. We lose 33,000 Americans to gun violence every year; 22,000 of those — roughly 60 each day — die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The first law that I would like to see changed is the one preventing federal dollars from funding research into gun violence. This is a stupid law. It is an indefensible law.

If we are going to make meaningful interventions against gun violence, fact-based approaches to the problem and its causes are the only place to start. Along with 80 percent of Americans, I believe that we need federal background checks on all gun and ammunition purchases, so that those with a criminal record or a history of domestic abuse have fewer options for arming themselves.

But as important as any law is what we teach our young people about guns and gun-violence prevention. I believe that gun-violence prevention begins at home and should be a topic of regular conversation in our schools. Moms Demand Action has an amazing gun-safety training program for schoolchildren and educators that needs to be circulated and implemented more broadly.

I would also like to establish and fund an education program focusing on the deadly intersection of depression and handgun ownership. We lose too many Americans to gun suicide. The Second Amendment is the law of the land, but it should not be the law of a family when a loved one is suffering from depression. We need to encourage parents, siblings, and children to get guns out of a house where they fear someone is suicidal.

5. Do you support reforms to federal marijuana laws?

I do. Marijuana has legitimate medical uses, including pain management and anxiety reduction. It has also shown promise as a treatment for autism. It is far safer and less addictive than opioids and should, where appropriate, be made available immediately as a replacement for that deadly class of drugs. So while I resist labeling marijuana or any intoxicant "safe," it certainly makes sense to decriminalize it. To keep marijuana illicit is to continue a set of policies that places undue strain on our police, affects minority populations disproportionately, and foregoes a source of tax revenue that could be used in myriad beneficial ways.

6. What should be done to strengthen the future of the Medicare and Social Security programs?

Everything that we possibly can. We should stand strong and fight against any proposed cuts to these programs. Hardworking Americans have earned these benefits, and Congress should do everything in its power to strengthen Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid as well. We can make sure these programs are solvent without cutting them by making sure that the wealthiest among us are paying their fair share in taxes and that corporations pay the advertised tax rate on their profits. We can close the carried-interest loophole, tax unearned income at the same rates as earned income and lift the payroll tax cap to make sure the wealthiest Americans are contributing at an equitable rate. Another solution would be to pass an improved Medicare for All bill to make sure every American gets the health care they rightfully deserve.

7. What would you do as member of Congress to strengthen public higher education, and especially the public universities in the 13th District?

I am the only candidate on either side in this race who has given his adult life to education. I will defend public education, from pre-K to graduate school, as if my life depends on it. In a very real way, it does.

Public higher education is critical to the future of this country. It is the one sure ladder to a higher quality of life for a student and for her or his family. It is at its best when students from diverse backgrounds live and learn alongside each other and study with faculty who are leaders in their fields and who are innovative, passionate teachers. There are a handful of things that can be done at the federal level to create and maintain these conditions. We can lower the bar for entry to higher education by offering free community college. The direct benefit of such a policy would go to students working toward an associate's degree and to those enrolled in programs that combine courses at community colleges with courses at public universities. Their costs would be slashed. The indirect benefits would be felt system wide, as the demand for a traditional four-year degree decreased and, if the market works the way it ought to, costs came down.

We can also create and/or expand tuition-for-service programs like the ROTC program that allowed me to go to college. I would like to see similar programs for teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers who agree to work in under-resourced communities. This could reduce out-of-pocket costs for service-oriented students and allow a more socioeconomically diverse group of students to enter our universities. And for those students who are now caught up in the student-loan debt crisis, we need to make the refinancing and potential dissolving of that debt possible.

As we work to diversify and strengthen the student body, we should also be supporting faculty in their research and career development. To that end, I would work to fully fund the NIH, NSF, NEH and NEA. These national treasures provide critical funding to faculty and keep them leaning forward into the next discovery, the next technology, the next book. In times of dramatically diminished funding from the state, these federal resources can keep research moving forward and provide much-needed strength to our public universities.

8. What is the primary challenge facing agriculture in central Illinois, and are there things you as a congressman can do to help?

Illinois farmers need the same thing any business owner needs: a steady income. When we consider the huge amount of corn and soy that Illinois exports to Mexico and Canada, it becomes clear how important trade is to farmers in ensuring the existence of a steady income. We have to preserve NAFTA if we want profitable farms. Additionally, we have to find ways to be at the table in trades in the Pacific so that our farmers can access those markets. The anti-globalization tack currently being taken by the Trump administration is antithetical to this goal. Lastly, we have to ensure the lines of communication between farmers and Congress are open in terms of taxes. Due to the sheer amount of money that flows through farms, tax policy is hugely influential and, if done poorly, can quickly destabilize a previously healthy business.

9. What kind of changes should be made to the federal tax code? Are there parts of the recently enacted Republican plan that should be preserved or revoked?

Before the tax-reform bill passed, I said that, if given the chance, I would improve it by tearing it up and lighting it on fire. It is a spectacularly short-sighted bill constructed on a foundation of lies, discredited myths and bad history. And the stated goal of simplicity, one thing that I thought was worth working for, has been discarded. What is coming next, as House Speaker Paul Ryan already indicated, is the argument that we need to cut "entitlements" and other budget items to pay for this $1.5 trillion abomination.

That said, it is now the law of the land. Having watched the Republicans embarrass themselves for most of the last decade chanting "repeal and replace" every time someone mentioned the ACA, I am not eager to join a similar chorus. Rather, I think Democrats ought to fight to close every corporate tax loophole so that corporations pay the advertised rate of 22 percent. I believe we should also reinstate the estate tax — which recognizes that aristocratic extremes of wealth run counter to American values — and tax unearned income at rates equal to those levied on earned income. These moves would begin to right the wrong inflicted by the Republican Party on our nation and our economy, and might move us toward a more stable federal revenue stream precisely at the moment when we need it.

10. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

The "Dreamers" should be permitted to stay in the country with a clearly elucidated path to citizenship. Undocumented individuals who have been in the country for years, paying taxes and otherwise contributing to our society, should be provided with a clearly elucidated path to citizenship. Undocumented individuals who commit felonies should be eligible for deportation. There should be a system of temporary employment visas, analogous to the present system of student visas, which works well, both for the visiting students and for our colleges and universities. The borders should be made secure, but not with a physical wall, which is third-century technology that will not be effective in the 21st century. Much more effective will be electronic surveillance, such as drones, and leading-edge communication systems to coordinate the work of patrol agents along the border.

Our immigration policies should be unbiased with respect to ethnicity, religion, race or national origin.

11. What role should the United States play in world affairs?

This is a very general question addressed toward a reality that is full of important specifics. It is clear to me that the United States needs to be involved in world affairs, and yet that there is no such thing as a once-size-fits-all foreign policy. It is also clear to me that our alliances are important and that international cooperation is generally good. We should be working every day, through a well-staffed State Department, to resolve disputes between our government and other nations, to help reach and maintain peace between neighboring states or factions, and to promote human flourishing globally. Diplomacy needs to be our first option in developing conflicts.

We live in a dangerous world. We need a well-armed, well-trained, professional military. But we should be far more cautious in using it than we have been of late. I am the only veteran running on either side in this race. I am also the only candidate who has spent weeks walking around American military cemeteries in Europe. I have a keen sense of the importance of U.S. involvement in the world, and of the sacrifices that Americans made in the 20th century to build alliances and to ensure peace. I am also more aware than most that American involvement in the world can go wrong and can lead to costly wars and greater global instability. This is why it is absolutely imperative that Congress rein in the executive branch on matters of military force, and that it revisit the authorization for the use of military force passed in 2001. Congress has ceded to the executive branch its constitutional and moral obligation to review and authorize the use of military force overseas.

12. Are any changes needed to federal election laws, including campaign-finance regulations?

I am running for Congress because I feel that our democracy is slipping away. I am not willing to let that happen. Two fights that we can win immediately are for Democratic control of the House and for the end of Citizens United and the poison it has brought to American governance. This is not a straightforward partisan issue, but the hope for a return to more principled politics is, at the moment, in the hands of Democrats.

Too many members of Congress — like our own Rodney Davis — are firmly in the thrall of special interests. When Congress is in session, they spend their time doing the bidding of special interests. When out of session, they devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to currying favor with the gun lobby and big pharma, entities that actively thwart the will of the people. Congressman Davis and others are rewarded for their deviousness with bursting campaign coffers and millions in "dark money" to trash the principled opposition.

Many of the fixes needed to stop the flow of dark money into our political system will take years to enact. But we can start this democracy-saving work now by electing candidates whose moral compasses are true and who aren't drawn to dollar signs. We can choose leaders who will fight with abandon for campaign finance reform. And we can be the change we seek by backing candidates — veterans, educators, common people — who have never been in it for the money. Supporting candidates such as these will help return our political system to the days when average people, not just millionaires, incumbents, and industry puppets could afford to run.

I cannot control what outside groups do in my race. But I have decided not to take money from corporate lobbyists, Wall Street banks or the NRA, and I am speaking out forcefully for campaign-finance reform, making it central to my campaign, just as I have made ethics, hard work, and service central to my life. We can't hope to end the Koch Brothers' exploitation of democracy with insiders from either side of aisle. We need candidates and legislators who tell the truth and stand up for the thing that ought to set this great nation apart from all others: government of, by and for the people.

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Dr. David Gill, Bloomington

1. What would make you a better representative for the 13th Congressional District than the other Democratic candidate?

Democratic primary voters should support me because of both my message and my demonstrated ability to win in IL-13. My progressive message (single-payer health care now, a $15-per-hour minimum wage now, and tuition-free access to public higher education and trade schools) would provide great benefit to the vast majority of residents of IL-13. Of great importance is the fact that my passionate delivery of this progressive message has already demonstrated the ability to succeed in IL-13. When I last ran for this office in 2012, my message won by 7 points; unfortunately, the presence of a liberal independent who echoed all of my positions split the vote just enough to allow the Republican candidate to narrowly win by 0.3 percent. Vague conservative messages from Democrats, similar to those offered by my current primary opponents, resulted in losses of 18 to 20 percentage points in 2014 and 2016 in IL-13.

2. Would you pledge to have regular "town hall meetings" or other general audience sessions with your constituents if elected?

Most definitely; I view this as a fundamental part of the job.

3. If you could draft an ideal national health care plan that is also affordable, what would it look like? Please be as specific as possible.

Working in the emergency department, I regularly bear witness to the failures of our health care financing system here in America. I am a 25-year member of Physicians of a National Health Program, and I have been passionately advocating over that time for a single-payer health care system. We must immediately end the dominance of the for-profit private health insurance industry; no longer should decisions regarding life and death be based upon American citizens' insurance status. As a bonus, more than 95 percent of American households would save money under such a system.

4. Are there additional gun laws or changes to existing gun laws that you would support to reduce gun violence in the United States? How would your position balance with Second Amendment concerns?

Several common-sense reforms should be enacted. Among these are mandatory background checks on all gun purchases, limiting the number of rounds per magazine to no more than 10, and the banning of bump stocks. None of these reforms would violate the Second Amendment.

5. Do you support reforms to federal marijuana laws?

Yes. The war on drugs has failed to decrease drug use and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Current policy also disproportionately impacts communities of color. It is finally time to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Legalization of marijuana has proven to successfully stimulate the economy in Colorado. This policy will generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and reduce the huge financial burden posed by incarcerating non-violent offenders.

6. What should be done to strengthen the future of the Medicare and Social Security programs?

These programs should always remain fully funded and they should never be privatized. The demonization of such programs by referring to them as "entitlements" must end; American citizens pay into these programs on a regular basis and beneficiaries are receiving that which they have earned.

7. What would you do as member of Congress to strengthen public higher education, and especially the public universities in the 13th District?

Our universities will be strengthened by making them more accessible to all, regardless of students' financial resources. Currently, those who are fortunate enough to graduate high school and go to college or trade schools often do so while putting themselves in tremendous debt. Not only is this immoral, it is economically irresponsible. When such a large contingent of the population is saddled with debt, consumers have less buying power and the entire economy suffers. This is why tuition must be free at public colleges, universities and trade schools; such a program could readily be funded through a small financial-transaction tax.

8. What is the primary challenge facing agriculture in central Illinois, and are there things you as a congressman can do to help?

Climate change is a scientific fact, and it is a manifestation of man's activities. Within the next two to three decades, climate change will result in profound change and difficulty for farmers in central Illinois. As a congressman, I intend to stand up to the fossil-fuel industry and embrace green energy. The technology that harnesses our renewable resources is becoming more efficient and effective. Renewable resources such as sunlight and wind are environmentally sustainable and they are emerging as cheaper options than nonrenewable fossil fuels.

9. What kind of changes should be made to the federal tax code? Are there parts of the recently enacted Republican plan that should be preserved or revoked?

The recent tax plan passed by Congress was simply a gift to the rich and powerful who have already been doing extremely well for the last several decades. Corporations have been recording record profits for several years, and their 35 percent tax rate has actually been approximately 18 percent because of the many loopholes written into the tax code for their benefit. In fact, more than 40 percent of large corporations have actually been paying zero tax over the past few years. To provide a permanent tax cut to these entities is grossly irresponsible, and will also result in Republican attempts to further shred our social safety net. Instead, I have long argued that it is long past time for the millionaires and billionaires to start paying their fair share of taxes here in America.

10. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

Yes, for those immigrants who have otherwise followed all the laws of this country.

11. What role should the United States play in world affairs?

Recent foreign-policy decisions have created an unstable situation in the Middle East, put American service members at risk, cost the federal government trillions of dollars and caused American foreign relations to suffer. Military force should only be used as a last resort, and diplomatic efforts must be made to resolve problems. It is important that the United States has the confidence of its allies and works with other nations diplomatically to solve problems.

12. Are any changes needed to federal election laws, including campaign-finance regulations?

The campaign-finance system in this country is broken, due to the Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Allowing corporations to dump endless amounts of unaccountable money into campaigns undermines our democracy. I do not accept any donations from corporations. Elections should be publicly financed, and super PACs should be eliminated. This country must move to a campaign-finance system that ensures our Congress is not simply bought by the wealthy and powerful.

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Erik Jones, Edwardsville

1. What would make you a better representative for the 13th Congressional District than the other Democratic candidate?

All the candidates in this race are talking about what they are going to do. I'm the candidate who is also talking about what I've done. I have a long track record of public service, fighting to protect people from the powerful. I have served as an Illinois assistant attorney general for the Illinois Attorney General's Office and as a congressional investigator in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.Whether it was fighting big banks that were forcing Illinois workers to pay unreasonable fees just to access their pay, stopping a billion-dollar scam against American consumers, or forcing FEMA to acknowledge that they had provided Hurricane Katrina survivors with trailers containing toxic levels of formaldehyde, I have been on the side of everyday, regular people. And that's because I am one of them.

I was born and raised in Centralia. My Dad is a small-business owner. My Mom was a teacher in Patoka for over 30 years. My grandfather and grandmother both retired as union members. An academic scholarship allowed me to go to SIUE, and $150,000 in debt allowed me to go to law school.

Like a lot of people in central and southern Illinois, I have had to work for everything I have. And it hasn't always been easy. When I talk about the challenges we're facing, my understanding of them also comes from my own experiences. It's why I am going to fight for an economy that works in every ZIP code, for universal health care coverage, and for young people to get an education or training without being forced to face crushing debt. The entry fee to adulthood should not be $100,000 in debt.

I'll be ready to do this job on Day 1. Given who our president is, we cannot have any on-the-job training in 2019.

2. Would you pledge to have regular "town hall meetings" or other general audience sessions with your constituents if elected?

Yes. I have already pledged to do at least four town halls per year in locations that are accessible to as many constituents as possible. The constituents of this district deserve a representative who will defend their interests in Washington, and that starts with making sure they are heard here in Illinois. Our current representative has been unwilling to do town halls, and it's hurting our district. That is unacceptable and very damaging for the people who live here. Voters deserve to have their representative's ear. It's the point of the position — to represent them.

If elected, I intend to engage with my constituents as much as possible during my time in Congress. I promise that I will hold regular town halls and expect to be held accountable by the people in the 13th District.

3. If you could draft an ideal national health care plan that is also affordable, what would it look like? Please be as specific as possible.

During this campaign I have heard from many residents who have shared that they cannot afford health care, that their current health insurance is so expensive that they cannot use it, that they were denied health care when they most needed it, and that their prescription drugs are too expensive. It is alarming how many families would be at risk of financial ruin if they had a health emergency, or how many people cannot even get the health care they need. It's unacceptable. Our current system is irrevocably broken. I believe that health care is a human right and having affordable health insurance is part of that right. The insurance companies have had repeated opportunities to offer a service that works for people, and they have showed time and again that they are unwilling to do it.

As an investigative counsel for a committee in Congress, I worked on investigations of health insurance companies that were denying coverage to individuals and reaping the profits, and we forced them to spend more money on health care, instead of CEO pay or marketing. We made progress, but it was not enough. At this point, I believe we need to open a federal system, whether it be Medicare or a new one, that allows anyone to buy in or opt in to it. We need to give people more choices than they are currently receiving and we need to do something to control costs, which is why I believe consumers should be given the option of Medicare.

We must also control the costs of prescription drugs by allowing the government to negotiate for drug purchases, allowing generics to come onto the market sooner, and allowing consumers to import their prescriptions from overseas. We must control the costs of health care. I will also fight against any changes to the Medicaid and Medicare programs that diminish the benefits to Americans.

4. Are there additional gun laws or changes to existing gun laws that you would support to reduce gun violence in the United States? How would your position balance with Second Amendment concerns?

We live in a country where all too frequently, our children go to school in the morning and they don't come home in the evening. This sad, unforgivable fact makes us an outlier among the countries of the world. Yet our elected officials do nothing. Over and over and over and over again. They do nothing. They offer no solutions. They offer no debate. They tell us that the time isn't right. If it sounds like I am angry, it's because I am. We all should be.

There is a continuing stream of tragic events occurring as a result of gun violence in our country and it is long past time that we enact common-sense gun legislation in Washington. Our current representative in Congress has blocked measures to ensure the safety of civilians from gun violence. There are many ways that we can enact common-sense gun legislation that still protects the Second Amendment rights of those who wish to buy and carry firearms. Requiring background checks that prevent criminals and terrorists from buying firearms, for example, is one way that Washington could better prevent terrible tragedies that we hear about far too often. But no one wins when powerful gun lobbies work alongside Washington politicians to weaken state and federal protections. The failure to respond to senseless shootings like those in Las Vegas; Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut; Orlando, Fla.; and Charlotte, S.C., is inexcusable. If elected, I would be a practical politician advocating for practical solutions that protect people and our children.

Proposals to enact concealed-carry reciprocity do not sufficiently allow states to protect the safety and security of their residents. Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people is an important responsibility of the states, and state laws allow them to ensure that concealed-carry permits are obtained by individuals who do not pose a threat to our society. Illinoisans should not be required to accept whatever standards another state has chosen to use for determination of its concealed-carry licenses. I believe it should be up to each state to determine whether they want to grant reciprocity to neighboring states based on an understanding of what their licensing requirements and applications processes are. Without this flexibility, states will lose a valuable tool for protecting their residents.

5. Do you support reforms to federal marijuana laws?

So far, states have been able to enact laws to permit medical and recreational marijuana as they see fit. The Obama administration allowed states to do this, and I supported that position. I do not support the Trump administration's position on this issue. States that have passed these laws so far have done so after a ballot referendum was used to gauge public approval. As with other issues, I believe that public perspective should guide policy initiatives and support ballot referendums like these to gauge state interest on the issue of marijuana. We should continue to respect the laws established by the people who live in the states that have legalized marijuana and recognize their authority to do so. I am against the Trump administration's efforts to interfere with what states like California and Colorado are doing.

6. What should be done to strengthen the future of the Medicare and Social Security programs?

Millions of people in the United States rely on Medicare and Social Security. The Trump administration has already undermined these programs to the detriment of the people who depend on them. I will oppose any efforts to diminish their benefits or to increase costs for those already enrolled. To strengthen the programs, we must open up the Medicare system, allowing anyone and everyone the opportunity to buy into it. This first step could be implemented immediately, and it will give every American a chance at affordable, quality insurance, while also stabilizing the marketplace, ending the uncontrollable rise of premiums. I would also fight any effort to privatize social security or raise the retirement age.

7. What would you do as member of Congress to strengthen public higher education, and especially the public universities in the 13th District?

As the home of many institutions of higher education, it is an incredibly important value to our communities. More than 20,000 people in the district work for these schools. Their success is vital to our economic future. I will fight to make sure that our universities are fully funded and that they can continue to compete among the world's top schools. We can make sure that education is affordable for all and expand our economy by bringing students from outside the district into our region. We must also ensure that our schools are accessible to Illinois students in particular and that they can graduate without the burden of overwhelming debt. Too many families and young adults are saddled with student-loan debt that prevents them from buying a home, starting a family or investing in their future. If we're going to be serious about investing in our economy, we need to help out recent graduates who have just taken the biggest gamble of their life just to get through college. I don't believe public education should be funded on the backs of students and I don't believe more than $100,000 in debt should be price of admission to adulthood. Our government at the federal level needs invest more in our public universities. I would be a tireless advocate fighting on their behalf and on behalf of students.

8. What is the primary challenge facing agriculture in central Illinois, and are there things you as a congressman can do to help?

The agriculture industry is vital part of the economy in Illinois 13. We must protect family farms and make sure that mergers and acquisitions amongst massive farming corporations don't put them out of business. I intend to accomplish this at the federal level by working to improve our enforcement of antitrust laws.

The current farm bill, written when prices were at a high point, is inadequate for the current atmosphere where corn and soybean prices have fallen. We've abandoned our responsibility as stewards of the land and have not been investing in sustainability. We also haven't been investing in the farming technologies or the rural development programs that will be essential for the growth and sustained health of the industry. In order to face these challenges, we need to sustain strong crop insurance and commodity programs that mitigate risk and help farmers deal with continued low prices, tailor the farmer safety net to benefit new and small businesses and then expand it, and invest in conservation programs to ensure good stewardship of the land and sustainable farming. Our government needs to invest in our country's farmers.

9. What kind of changes should be made to the federal tax code? Are there parts of the recently enacted Republican plan that should be preserved or revoked?

America must commit to a tax policy that benefits the middle class and is not a handout to corporations and the extremely wealthy. The tax plan just enacted by President Donald Trump and endorsed by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis is a handout to corporations and the extremely wealthy at the expense of middle-class Americans. The bill will add over $1 trillion to the national debt on the backs of hardworking taxpayers. There is absolutely no guarantee that these tax cuts will lead to more jobs, higher wages or economic growth. If we're going to give a tax break to corporations and the super wealthy, let's put some teeth in it and tie any tax cut to creating jobs here in America or investments here in America. The law does not do that. It's merely a giveaway.

This tax bill creates tax relief for middle-class Americans that is only temporary, while the massive tax cuts for corporations are permanent. Additionally, the law could lead to tax increases for some families, depending upon the types of deductions they used that were taken away. The fact that this law will lead to billions in savings for corporations and the super wealthy yet could lead to tax increases for the middle class is ludicrous. This hypocrisy is exactly the gamesmanship that Illinois voters are tired of and the reason we need a change in representation for the 13th District. It's time Washington starts looking out for the middle class and working families, instead of the wealthiest.

10. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

DACA recipients should absolutely be given a path to citizenship. More than 35,000 "Dreamers" call Illinois home, and as hardworking, self-sufficient and patriotic members of our communities, they have long deserved a pathway to citizenship. In Congress, I'll work to ensure that the legal status of "Dreamers" more accurately reflects their contributions to America.

President Trump's plan to repeal DACA is cruel. Our government made promises to the individuals who came forward. Congress should vote in favor of extending DACA and implementing the DREAM Act.

I also believe comprehensive immigration reform is the only solution. We cannot continue on a path where millions of undocumented immigrants live in the shadows. We do need to ensure we have secure borders and we should invest in it appropriately, but building a wall makes no sense. The Chinese built a wall nearly 2,000 years ago. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. We should invest in technology of the 21st century to secure our border and we should find a solution for comprehensive immigration reform.

11. What role should the United States play in world affairs?

American diplomacy is a fragile and complicated dance, but it is a crucial component to our reputation around the globe, our standing in it and the security and safety of billions of people. As a member of Congress, I would consider it one of my most important responsibilities — to uphold our American values in world affairs.

Our position in the global economy affords us the ability and responsibility to make change on an international scale, but we cannot ignore the reality that our own economic success is increasingly linked to a thriving global economy. Additionally, we cannot forget that other states and organizations around the globe do not always have our best interests in mind. I worked on addressing the cybersecurity challenges facing our country and our private sector as a counsel in the United States Senate. We are targets and we must remember that. We must protect our interests.

The United States approach to trade with foreign countries has long been premised on the idea that a global economy will allow all countries involved to grow. Each trade deal that the United States enters must create opportunities for the economies of all ZIP codes across the country, not just large multinational corporations with few commitments to workers and investments here at home. There is no doubt that recent policies and priorities have really damaged communities in central and southern Illinois, like where I grew up. We, as a country, need to make sure that if we're making trade deals with other countries that benefit consumers, that we're also protecting hardworking Americans here at home.

Any trade agreements that the U.S. enters should support living wages for Americans and include sufficient commitments that the benefits of the trade agreements will flow to communities that are struggling to bring in jobs and investment.

I believe that strong multinational agreements are necessary to address climate change and that we should not abandon them.

12. Are any changes needed to federal election laws, including campaign-finance regulations?

I have devoted much of my career in public service to protecting people from special interests, and I would pursue the same cause in Congress by working to shore up campaign-finance regulations and eliminating the corruption of our political campaigns by special interests. Citizens United v. FEC is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in recent history. Corporations are not people, and it falls on Congress to protect actual people against corporate interests. We need to limit role of corporate money in our elections and move toward publicly funded campaigns.

Recent judicial decisions have also undermined key protections guaranteed under the Voting Rights Act. There have been increasing efforts to hinder people's access to the polls, which poses a threat to the very premise of our democracy. I will work to ensure the protection of essential voting rights for all Americans.

* * * * *

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Springfield

1. What would make you a better representative for the 13th Congressional District than the other Democratic candidate?

My family goes back generations here in the 13th District — farmers, miners, union organizers, teachers, attorneys and judges. I am a daughter, student, voter, organizer, taxpayer and mother of the 13th District. My time, energy and work have been invested right here in the 13th District: from coaching youth sports to co-founding "Women Rising" to preserving Abraham Lincoln's legacy at the Presidential Library and Museum. I don't just talk about helping my community — I'm doing it. The 13th District is my home and where I've built my life. When I stand up for the middle-class, when I fight for health care, jobs and education, I'm fighting for my neighbors. There will be no doubt where my heart is and where my loyalties lie because they're right here at home, where they've always been.

2. Would you pledge to have regular "town hall meetings" or other general audience sessions with your constituents if elected?

I would absolutely make this pledge, and in fact I already have, to the local activist group CU Indivisible. I have put over 25,000 miles on my car since July 5th getting around the district, holding town halls, meeting with voters and listening to their stories. My campaign is reflective of the kind of representative I will be: accessible and engaged.

3. If you could draft an ideal national health care plan that is also affordable, what would it look like? Please be as specific as possible.

Health care is a right, not a privilege, and needs to be affordable, accessible and focused on quality of care.

An ideal national health care plan would be a public option and would include all essential health benefits, including pediatrics and maternity care, for example.

Initially, it would become available in counties with one or zero health plans on the Obamacare marketplace. This would immediately create more options for families and reduce costs. It would then be open to the entire country and allow small businesses to enroll, too. Ultimately, it would open to larger employers. Moving people into a public-option program and giving the program time to grow is key to keeping it affordable and giving the system time to adjust. Between now and when we are able to pass this legislation, we need to protect the progress we made with the Affordable Care Act. It is not a perfect piece of legislation, but it was solid first step for us to improve and step off from.

We also need to allow prescription-drug prices to be negotiated instead of demanded and continue to update administrative procedures in order to streamline the process for individuals and health care providers, simultaneously saving costs.

The protection of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is also crucial because of the tax-reform legislation adding to the national debt; the stage is set for those earned benefits to be on the chopping block. This can not happen and I am committed to protect these essential earned benefits.

4. Are there additional gun laws or changes to existing gun laws that you would support to reduce gun violence in the United States? How would your position balance with Second Amendment concerns?

I support a unified, federal background-check system on all gun sales. I believe those convicted of violent offenses, including domestic abuse, forfeit their right to own firearms. I also believe we have to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerously mentally ill individuals. I am not in favor of federally imposed concealed-carry reciprocity. In terms of changes to gun laws, the CDC should be permitted to study gun violence as a public-health issue to help identify both underlying causes and actionable steps to reducing it. I believe it is imperative that gun owners and non-gun-owners have open, ongoing dialogue to determine how to address gun violence in our communities. I come from a family and community of responsible gun owners and am respectful of individual Second Amendment rights.

5. Do you support reforms to federal marijuana laws?

Yes. We need to protect and preserve existing state-based cannabis programs and create a framework for the federal regulation of marijuana. I am in favor of the "Path to Marijuana Reform," a bipartisan package of three related bills that address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, descheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation. States throughout the nation are listening to voters and rolling back outdated marijuana laws. It's time for the federal government to update its approach and respect individual state rights.

6. What should be done to strengthen the future of the Medicare and Social Security programs?

The first step to strengthening Medicare would be to allow the negotiation of prescription drug prices. It's financially irresponsible that the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals is not allowed at the bargaining table — by our own laws. Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs has to be a top priority.

Medicare is transforming right now and becoming stronger. The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) offers providers and suppliers (e.g., physicians, hospitals, and others involved in patient care) an opportunity to create a new type of health care entity, an Accountable Care Organization. An ACO agrees to be held accountable for the quality, cost and experience of care of an assigned Medicare fee-for-service beneficiary population. ACOs align provider and payer incentives to focus on value instead of volume, with the goal of keeping patients healthy and costs manageable. In 2016, with four years of data to review, the results are positive. While it takes an initial investment from an ACO to create the infrastructure to comply with the MSSP (depending on the ACO's chosen track), overall, it demonstrates that over time, they improve the quality of care while also saving money.

With regard to strengthening Social Security, I believe we should raise the (maximum taxable earnings) cap. The cap is set at $118,500 but equals about 83 percent of all earnings paid in covered employment, whereas in the past it was equal to about 90 percent. If we raise the cap to return to the 90 percent level, it would reduce Social Security's long-term deficit over its 75-year solvency period by nearly 30 percent.

7. What would you do as member of Congress to strengthen public higher education, and especially the public universities in the 13th District?

As a product of public schools, a former teacher and UI graduate, I know the value of a quality education. As a mother with two children in college right now, I am going through exactly what so many parents are gong through, trying to figure out how to pay for it all without leaving my kids with crushing student debt.

The federal government can help in many ways. Some of my ideas to make college more accessible and affordable are to encourage two- and four-year colleges to expand income-share agreement programs so students pay for tuition costs through jobs secured post-college; raise the child tax credit to 18 so parents can allocate that money towards educational costs; allow those with crushing student-loan debt to refinance at lower rates; open avenues for paying off existing student debt including making it easier for employers to offer student-loan repayment as an employee benefit and lowering interest rates; allow colleges to incorporate "student ambassadors" into their work-study programs to mentor high school seniors through the college application and financial-aid process; incentivize businesses to fund continuing education by introducing a tax credit for money contributed to a 529 account for an employee or an employee's child; raise the cap on employer-provided tuition assistance to help companies cover tuition costs and advanced training for employees; and preserve higher-education benefits, such as employer contributions, deduction of tuition and qualified educational expenses and allow companies to cover the cost of a college education at community colleges and other partner institutions for working students

8. What is the primary challenge facing agriculture in central Illinois, and are there things you as a congressman can do to help?

Right now, there are several challenges facing our agricultural communities. Health care costs in farming communities have risen dramatically while options for coverage have been reduced. Stabilizing the ACA is a critical step forward, then introducing a public option for health insurance, such as Medicare X, can provide much needed affordable access to health care. Connecting our agricultural communities through infrastructure investments must be a top priority.

In addition to modernizing roads, bridges and waterways, we need to bridge the digital divide and make sure every corner of the district has access to broadband. Students and small businesses, in particular, are suffering from poor connection or lack of connection altogether. Fully funding our rural utility services is a must.

Protecting family farms is also a priority. It's increasingly difficult for young farmers to make a living on their family farms because they are getting squeezed out by large, corporate farms. Enacting policies to support our family farmers would be a priority as congresswoman.

9. What kind of changes should be made to the federal tax code? Are there parts of the recently enacted Republican plan that should be preserved or revoked?

The tax code passed by the GOP and signed by President Donald Trump was a massive giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. To pay for these tax cuts, they will leave millions of Americans uninsured and phase out the temporary cuts for individuals. Corporations no longer have to pay corporate taxes on money they claim to have earned abroad — a move that encourages companies to keep income in foreign tax havens. By eliminating the corporate alternative minimum tax, corporations have no tax floor and their race to the bottom won't stop, because it doesn't have to. Meanwhile, the limiting of state and local tax deductions to $10,000 unfairly burdens taxpayers in Illinois. I strongly disagree with this approach.

We need to take a step back and re-prioritize families, students and the middle class. I want to keep jobs and money here in the United States and strengthen local economies. I would support a tax code that reduces the incentives for companies to move their operations and shift their income overseas.

I agree with the increased and expanded child tax credit. I also agree with retaining the lifetime learning credit, student-loan interest deduction and graduate-school tuition waivers after a previous House bill, supported and voted for by the 13th District's current representative, Rodney Davis, excluded them.

10. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

Yes. I want a fair, practical and humane path to citizenship for otherwise-law-abiding immigrants who are in the United States illegally. We've been the "Great American Melting Pot" and given birth to the notion of "The American Dream," where no matter who you are or where you're from, if you work hard enough, anything is possible. I believe being a nation of immigrants is why this beautiful mosaic of a country stands as a beacon of light to people around the world. I want to codify DACA to protect "Dreamers" by granting permanent residency and a path to citizenship through higher education, military service or employment.

11. What role should the United States play in world affairs?

It is imperative to our national security, our national economy and our national spirit to maintain our position as a global leader. For years, our experiment in democracy has been held up as an ideal and our president known as "the leader of the free world." Nations around the world desire our innovations and education, and our partnership in trade and rely on our steadfast support of democratic values. Leaving the Paris Climate Accord, threatening to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and taunting world leaders are a few examples of our current president stepping away from our global responsibilities and sowing distrust. This leaves the United States in the precarious position of abdicating our position of international strength, creating a void in leadership where POTUS has stood and creating an opening for another world leader to step in and fill it. I believe this weakens our nation, makes us less safe and risks leaving behind our economy and American workers.

12. Are any changes needed to federal election laws, including campaign-finance regulations?

I believe we need to pass an amendment overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. While working toward overturning, we can focus on increasing transparency. We can change the disclosure laws to require transparency for 501(c)(4) organizations that are not required by the IRS to disclose their donors. Many of these groups, empowered by "dark money," are increasingly engaging in political activity while operating in anonymity. Changing the disclosure laws would allow voters to see who is funding these groups and consider it appropriately. We can also change the filing rules for Federal Election Commission reports. Instead of quarterly and sometimes on paper, these filings can be required monthly and electronically. This would make it simpler for journalists to report on large contributions and/or identify trends in a timely manner.

* * * * *

Angel Sides, Springfield

1. What would make you a better representative for the 13th Congressional District than the other Democratic candidate?

For the last 10 years, I have produced political commentary on Free Speech TV covering the subject matter of how our media is corrupted. The people of this country need to be aware of the problems of the world in order to solve those problems. When corporations sponsor our media, they will report very little on a subject when it affects corporate America’s profits. The media will never report in a manner to expand Medicare, switch to alternative energy or raise the minimum wage when multinational corporations make so much on the system as it is. A commentator’s opinion affects everybody’s opinion. Psychologists are employed to test rhetoric and propaganda that will influence the public. The corporate media will never report on a revolution in a positive light or how our taxes are spent in a negative light. There will always be a reason not to spend taxes on the people, because corporate America makes too much money on bailouts, subsidizing industry and perpetual war. This is where a better part of our tax dollars end up. Free Speech TV is the only independent television network left that will cover such topics the corporate media can’t cover. Public officials need to know what the problems are in the world in order to solve those problems. For the last 10 years, I have been splicing and editing commentaries and documentaries, and it paints a bleak picture that scares me, and I refuse to grow old and die without doing anything and saying anything. This is one of the main reasons I am running for office.

What people need to know is when a politician accepts corporate campaign contributions, they then pass legislation that benefits those corporations. A “Big Pharma” contribution equals high drug prices. An oil-industry contribution equals pollution and global warming. An insurance-industry contribution equals high insurance premiums and votes against single-payer universal health care or expanding Medicare. Therefore, what people need to look at to know how to vote for a candidate is who or what finances a candidate’s campaign and how long a candidate has been saying what they’re saying. I have not taken corporate lobbyist money during my campaign and I will never be a corporate puppet. I have been an activist for the last 20 years, so I am not exactly pandering to the vote. I have gone around the country for the last 20 years marching, protesting, speaking and even being arrested. I am authentically disgusted with our system and I authentically want change. I called for a town hall in 2012 for the Capital City Township to have a referendum on the upcoming ballot for universal single-payer health care to be considered the health care system for the state of Illinois. This legislation could be passed on a state level as well as nationally.

2. Would you pledge to have regular "town hall meetings" or other general audience sessions with your constituents if elected?

I feel it is very important to maintain our democracy and have regular town hall meetings. I plan on informing the district on facts and information that they should know and getting their feedback. Representation should not require campaign contributions; the public’s tax dollars pay for representation. This is what makes our democracy great.

3. If you could draft an ideal national health care plan that also is affordable, what would it look like? Please be as specific as possible.   

I think HR 676 would benefit this country greatly. When the cost of insurance premiums is considered, the bill saves the average family of four $4,000. HR 676 would save health care costs for 95 percent of Americans and it covers everyone, including drug rehabilitation and in-home care for the elderly. It eliminates the middle man (the insurance companies) and retrains the workers within the new system. CEOs make over $160 million a year, while everyone’s premiums skyrocket. Congress needs to put an end to for-profit health care. It has got to stop, because people shouldn’t have to fight the insurance companies or be financially stressed when they are sick. While I campaign, I would like to remind people to call U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (217-492-4062) and ask him to whip the Democratic Party to cosponsor the HR 676 health care bill to expand Medicare.

4. Are there additional gun laws or changes to existing gun laws that you would support to reduce gun violence in the United States? How would your position balance with Second Amendment concerns?

There is a link to gun violence and certain psychotropic drugs. According to whistleblower Blair Hamlick, Eli Lilly and other drug companies hid research that showed Prozac, Paxil and other psychotropic drugs increase violence. These drugs and painkillers have not just been linked to suicide but also mass killings. In the 1950s, depression was not treated with pills, and mass shootings were unheard of. There should be more oversight and regulation in place concerning drugs and drug companies. There should be a voluntary trade-in for cash of automatic and semiautomatic weapons. There needs to be an end to private sales of guns.

5. Do you support reforms to federal marijuana laws?

Sometimes marijuana can be laced with substances that are toxic, like meth or arsenic. People should be able to grow marijuana to know what is in it. Marijuana has been used as a painkiller and to overcome heroin addiction. I would support the legalization of marijuana.

6. What should be done to strengthen the future of the Medicare and Social Security programs?

There should be laws prohibiting borrowing from Social Security to benefit other programs.

7. What would you do as member of Congress to strengthen public higher education, and especially the public universities in the 13th District?

Since America is the richest country in the world, I think we should have tuition-free higher education like every other industrialized country in the world.

8. What is the primary challenge facing agriculture in central Illinois, and are there things you as a congressman can do to help?

In my opinion, the challenge would be to give people healthy food they actually want: organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables. I would support legislation that would turn to eco-friendly, sustainable agriculture.

9. What kind of changes should be made to the federal tax code? Are there parts of the recently enacted Republican plan that should be preserved or revoked?

The Tax Policy Center’s report on the distribution of tax expenditures strengthens the case for tax reform. Millionaires and billionaires are subject to a 15 percent tax rate instead of a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 percent. The unfair tax policy of capital income allows some millionaires and billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than many middle-class households. The new Republican tax plan should end the tax loopholes and the plan should not have a permanent status for the millionaires and billionaires. The Tax Policy Institute has stated that by 2027, 83 percent of the tax benefits in the tax plan would benefit the 1 percent. The tax benefits for the 1 percent are permanent, whereas the small tax breaks for the middle class are temporary. Equalizing the tax treatment of ordinary income and capital income would substantially improve the economy and wealth inequality.

10. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally?

Since there are more Hispanic people leaving the country than there are migrating into the country, we should abide by the laws in place until we have a shorter pathway to citizenship for all immigrants. I think the immigration issue needs to be addressed with empathy on a case-by-case basis, taking into account criminal records, but first and foremost keeping families together, as well as the long term wishes of the immigrants involved. I am appalled at the for-profit detention centers that are located in remote areas of the U.S., and few people know about them. They are a humanitarian crisis. Children are in these detention centers. The families there are underfed, the women are raped and the men are beaten. If the detainees complain, they are thrown into solitary confinement. Corporations like Geo Group collect our tax dollars year after year to maintain these detention centers, but to save money, they do not provide adequate health care for the detainees, not even the children. It has got to stop.

11. What role should the United States play in world affairs?

While producing political commentary for the last 10 years, I came across a documentary, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” After watching this and other documentaries, I feel the big picture of war puts countries into debt and pushes these countries to sell their natural resources to corporate interests. Our military should not be used as the goon squad for corporate interests. I think our military should be used for self-defense, protecting the environment from corporate interests, and to end sex trafficking and the drug trade. I don’t think our military should be used to overturn democratically elected leaders to be replaced by a leader who will further the U.S. (corporate) agenda. We need to rid the planet of nuclear and atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction with the death penalty being the consequence of not abiding by this, agreed to by all countries worldwide.

12. Are any changes needed to federal election laws, including campaign-finance regulations?

I will fight to return to hand ballots and hand-counted audits. There were many lawsuits concerning the last presidential election. There were large discrepancies concerning the vote and the exit polls. When lawsuits were threatened, the corporate media announced they would no longer conduct exit polls. No matter what candidate you supported, all Americans should want our elections to be fair and accurate. Politico has reported that exit polls are going to be phased out and no longer affordable. I am asking the public to call their county clerk and ask for a public audit for the upcoming primary and after every election.

I believe we do need more campaign-finance regulations and we need to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. I will fight to get multinational corporate money out of our election process and to overturn Citizens United to restore our democracy. (Sign the petition at movetoamend.org.)

Hundreds of Americans, including me, gathered at Democracy Springs to get big money out of politics, and like Martin Luther King, we were arrested for standing up for what we believe in. I was proud to be arrested alongside Code Pink, Wolf Pack and The Young Turks.

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Panther79 wrote on March 03, 2018 at 9:03 pm

 I’ve been following this campaign from beginning, and all the candidates seem very nice. 

To be blunt, my main complaint with Rodney Davis is the fact that he has flat out defended the behavior of our President.  I am not so much concerned about defense of policies, because that is political, but the behavior and capacity of our President is absolutely unacceptable.

In order to reverse this current accumulation of events, there is truly one Democratic candidate that has the combination of content and experience to defeat Rodney Davis......and that is Erik Jones.

No Question.