Democratic candidate for U.S. House (6th district)
Responses to our questions
The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?
Donald Trump, Peter Roskam and Congressional Republicans recently passed a tax bill that will increase the deficit by over $1 trillion and will exacerbate the already ballooning economic inequality in our country. Republicans could have passed a bill that would enhance and grow the middle class, but they didn't.
Instead, they passed a bill that gives a handout to corporations and special interests paid for by raising taxes on the middle class over ten years. They could have given the middle class a substantial tax cut, but they didn't. Instead, they cut the corporate tax rate by over 20%. They could have worked to reduce the deficit, but they didn't.
Instead, their bill will increase the deficit by over $1 trillion. A tax plan is a reflection of what its authors truly care about, and reflects their vision for the country. Sadly, the vision and values of Peter Roskam and those who supported this tax plan are clear -- special interest donors matter far more than constituents and middle-class families. This is only exacerbated by the elimination of the state and local income tax deduction.
The Republican tax plan even harms our schools and local government by eliminating their ability to refinance bonds through advance refunding. This deprives them of the ability to save taxpayer money by taking advantage of lower interest rates, posing a real threat to local governments as well as their efforts to maintain and rebuild infrastructure.
Again, breaks to the wealthiest corporations are supported on the back of our local communities. In Congress, I will fight to fix the tax code so it actually works for the middle class instead of special interests. I will work to ensure corporations, special interests, and the wealthiest pay their fair share so that working families can thrive. And I will work to address inequality and ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
We don't need to cut crucial services and programs that support hard working Americans and facilitate opportunity in order to reduce the deficit. Instead, we can actually address government waste and cut programs and expenditures that have already been identified as wasteful or unnecessary. Every year the government spends millions of dollars to identify waste. Unfortunately, this analysis typically ends up as waste because Congress prioritizes special interests over government efficiency and refuses to act to reduce government waste.
The Government Accountability Office has identified more than 500 programs that are "opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap and duplication, and achieve other financial benefits." These include things as simple as combining federal cell phone contracts for a lower rate to better coordinating the half a billion dollars a year the DoD spends on advertising to eliminating bureaucratic waste at the DoD.
The GAO and Inspectors General already provide a roadmap on how to achieve significant cost savings, Congress just needs to follow their advice. Our government also should be supporting military technology that actually works and serves our troops, rather than continuing to pour money into programs that benefit special interests instead of our troops.
Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.
Medicare and Medicaid are two important promises that we must keep. Donald Trump and Peter Roskam have already set their sights on cutting Medicare and Medicaid to pay for more handouts to special interests. In Congress, I will oppose efforts to privatize Social Security and attempts to decrease funding for Medicare.
However, we must work to find rational ways to reduce costs while maintaining benefits. We need to remove the special interest provision that makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower costs. This law literally makes it illegal for Medicare to get the same rates on drugs that the VA does, and changing it could save billions of dollars and add to the long term financial security of Medicare. In addition, we need to continue the provider payment reforms that became law in the ACA.
Instead, one of Tom Price's last actions before resigning in disgrace was to scale back the very programs that put Medicare on a more sustainable path. I do not support Medicaid block grants, as have been proposed. Block grant proposals often start with reductions in federal Medicaid support. Then, if a state's costs exceed the block grant that state must make up the costs through its own funds or, more likely, by cutting essential services to those who need it most such as low-income residents including children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
The government should ensure that affordable health insurance is accessible to every American, because everyone has a right to quality, affordable healthcare. But that right is under attack. Republicans like Peter Roskam have been working hard to to strip healthcare away from millions of Americans and their families.
As someone who receives their healthcare through the marketplace, I understand firsthand the disastrous impact that repealing the ACA would have on millions of American families and on our economy. I will fight to ensure every American has access to healthcare by exploring rational solutions such as a public option to provide additional choice, lowering the eligibility age for Medicare, incentivizing younger people to purchase coverage in the marketplace, setting up alternative payment structures to both reduce cost and increase the quality of care, and any thoughtful, rational ways to reduce costs while providing quality healthcare.
We absolutely need to improve the ACA because health insurance remains too expensive. Unfortunately, Peter Roskam isn't interested in improving healthcare or reducing costs; in fact, he has been a leader in efforts to repeal and sabotage the ACA which have increased instability in the insurance markets and resulted in higher healthcare costs.
Rather than sabotage the ACA, we should work to improve our healthcare system so that healthcare is affordable and accessible to all. In fact, when Peter Roskam's constituents called his office to voice their opinion on the ACA vote his staff members told constituents they were not taking messages on that issue. I know this because I was Congressman Foster's District Chief of Staff at the time and we received calls from 6th District constituents who Peter Roskam had turned away. And we did what a Representative should do: we answered their calls and we listened.
We need a strong leader in Washington who understands the importance of affordable, quality healthcare. As your Congresswoman, I will work to ensure that no American ever worries about whether or not they will lose their healthcare because of partisan politics in Washington.
Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?
Growing up, I was taught that if I worked hard, I would have opportunity and the chance to succeed. People don't feel that way today. Many people still have not fully recovered from the financial crisis, and small businesses has been particularly slow to recover. Our region has long been at the forefront of economic growth and industrialization, but automation continues to change our workplace and require different skills from our nation's workers.
Since the 1980s, wages have stagnated for everyone except the extremely rich. During his campaign, Donald Trump said he would fight for the middle class. Instead, he has advocated for corporations and special interests. Peter Roskam likewise led efforts to pass a tax bill that rewards large corporations and pays for it by raising taxes on the middle class over ten years. We need Members of Congress who will work to increase opportunities for working families and small businesses, rather than focus on appeasing special interests and corporate donors.
Whether it is preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow or retraining workers to fill the skills gaps that exist today, we need to focus on creating jobs and sustainable incomes. I will use my unique blend of experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors -- as an attorney, journalist and public servant -- to promote policies that benefit the middle class.
I am the candidate best prepared to build our economy by growing the middle class because that's exactly what I did in Congressman Foster's office. For example, I spearheaded Congressman Foster's Project Growth series, which focused on fostering economic development and supporting job growth. I developed relationships with business and community leaders throughout the district with a coordinated focus on key areas in driving economic development, including workforce training, transportation and infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, and growing our middle class. In Congress, this experience will allow me to prioritize policies that benefit and grow the middle class from day one.
Education also is a critical factor in a nation's prosperity. It is the great equalizer. We must work to ensure that all children, in all communities, receive a quality education and that income is not a barrier to a college education. My dad lost his job when I was in high school, but I was still able to attend college through a combination of working and affordable student loans. Today, too many young people cannot attend college because of the high costs and so many who do are saddled with student loan debt that lasts for decades -- further inhibiting our nation's economic growth.
Too often, people say government isn't working. Our government can work with congressional Representatives who are focused on long-term policies rather than short-term political gains. I have helped make government work and want to keep doing so. Today, government isn't working for the people in Illinois' 6th Congressional District. It is time to replace Peter Roskam with someone who is focused on serving the interests of this community, not special interests.
If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?
We are a nation of immigrants with a strong heritage of inclusion. My grandfather came here from Hungary, and built a successful upholstery business. America has thrived on the innovation and diversity brought by people of all cultures. We would benefit economically by establishing a pathway to citizenship that is both thoughtful and fair.
Donald Trump has forgotten that throughout history immigrants have come here seeking refuge and opportunity, and have worked hard to achieve the American Dream. I support a path to citizenship and believe we must fight to protect the Dreamers who were brought here as children, are contributors to our society, and know no other country. We made a bargain with them. Now Donald Trump wants to break that bargain for political points, and destroy countless lives in the process. People in our communities are going back into the shadows because they are concerned about aggressive deportation and Donald Trump's hostility towards immigrants.
As Congressman Foster's District Chief of Staff, I worked with a member of the military whose troop had relied heavily on an Afghan interpreter. The lives of the interpreter and his family were threatened by the Taliban for helping our country, so we helped them obtain special immigrant visas. Donald Trump's immigration ban, which Peter Roskam supported, would have barred individuals like this from entering our country.
I also strongly object to Donald Trump's statements demeaning people who are seeking refuge or a better life in this nation. I've been on two mission trips to Haiti. The people there are generous and caring. They have faced some of the world's most devastating natural disasters and have endured decades of oppression by their government. Donald Trump's hostile policies and statements do not make us safer; they escalate fear and promote divisiveness.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?
North Korea is an urgent national security threat. Dealing with this threat requires a measured, rationale approach rather than "governance by tweet," which serves to escalate both hostility and fear. Working with our world and regional partners, we must seek ways to disarm North Korea and alleviate the nuclear threat it poses. We also should be working to foster a strong working relationship between the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and the rest of the world. The recent decision made by North and South Korea to march under a pro-unification flag at the Olympics is a positive step.
The delicate nature of our relationship with North Korea underscores why it is so crucial that our Commander-In-Chief is thoughtful and rational in dealing with North Korea. We need to focus on keeping Americans safe, and Donald Trump's reckless antagonism undermines this most basic foreign policy objective.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
The defense and security of our nation is of the utmost priority. The development of vicious extremist organizations, particularly the Islamic State, cannot be ignored. As a nation, we need to provide the agencies entrusted with keeping us safe with the necessary tools to help root out terrorism while continuing to serve as a world leader in active diplomacy and focus on keeping America safe by supporting peace internationally through established diplomatic routes. We should be a strong leader by supporting our allies through specific operations rather than ground forces that include U.S. troops.
It is of particular importance that our nation's leader is not volatile and instead provides a rational, stable, and thoughtful approach to any military or diplomatic efforts in the middle east and on the world stage generally. Foreign policy should be established through a methodical process at all times. Donald Trump has irresponsibly made unanticipated shifts in our nation's foreign policy without consultation with national leaders and experts, and without regard for ramifications. This is a dangerous precedent that signals extreme instability on the world stage, and places every American and our nation at risk. In international relations our nation's primary focus should be on keeping Americans safe, and Donald Trump's reckless antagonism undermines this most basic foreign policy objective.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
We should continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran, rather than issue ultimatums that serve only to escalate tension and hostility. We need to continue working toward the dismantling of an Iran nuclear weapons program, and the best way to do this is to continue abiding by the terms of the agreement. Indeed, in October 2017 , more than 90 nuclear scientists issued a letter urging Congress to continue supporting the agreement.
The Iran deal was front loaded with benefits for Iran, and back loaded with benefits for the United States. Leaving the deal now would only remove the benefits for the United States. This is why it's so crucial that our national leaders -- especially the President -- conduct foreign policy through a rational and thoughtful process at all times. Backing out of agreed-upon accords does not advance our position as a trusted world leader and when our leader acts rashly on the world stage our national security is placed at risk.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
We've coming up on the 17th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and are on the cusp of sending into battle young people who were born after the war began. Every year or two there is a new plan to finally "win" the war but the outcome has remained the same. In Congress, I will demand a clear objective and actionable metrics from this Administration so that we do not continue in the pattern of endless stalemate that has lost lives and cost trillions of dollars but resulted in no resolution.
Our first and foremost objective should always be to keep American safe, and we should protect our national interests as well as those of our allies while working to protect democracy and human rights. We should strive for these objectives without putting our troops in danger when there are viable alternatives.
We also need to fight terrorism here at home. We must make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns in America by implementing "no fly, no buy," and crack down on internet recruitment of terrorists that facilitates attacks in America and throughout the world.
In addition to prioritizing the safety of our troops and all Americans when making decisions about our nation's presence in Afghanistan, we must do everything possible to protect the safety of Afghans who worked with our troops. As Congressman Foster's District Chief of Staff, I worked with a U.S. soldier who, along with other members of our troops, had relied heavily on an Afghan interpreter. The life of this interpreter and his family were in danger and they faced threats from the Taliban because of the interpreter's work with the U.S. military. We helped him and members of his family obtain special immigrant visas; this interpreter stood up and helped our country, and we needed to help him and his family escape persecution for his work with our troops.
Sadly, Peter Roskam called the immigration ban a "necessary first step in protecting the homeland" in a news release, and supported it in the media as well. Banning translators and other potential immigrants who have risked their lives to protect our soldiers and our nation does not protect America. It tarnishes our reputation abroad, and further endangers the lives of Americans and those with whom they have worked.
Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.
We must address the gun violence epidemic with more than gratuitous statements of "thoughts and prayers." While thoughts and prayers are necessary for victims and families, we need meaningful action and we need it now. We cannot continue to sit idly by while tragedy after tragedy demonstrates all too clearly that as a nation we are not doing enough to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We need to take a comprehensive approach to this problem that protects the rights of lawful gun owners while keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. Congress must act.
We should be sufficiently funding the Centers for Disease Control for research on gun violence and its prevention, just as we would do with any other epidemic. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the necessity for universal background checks, from gun dealers, private sales and gun shows. Keeping guns out of the wrong hands, criminals, and the dangerously mentally ill, is a common sense step in helping to prevent the numerous tragedies we've seen over the last several years. It's a first step in combating gun violence to protect innocent victims.
I also support banning the sale of "bump stocks" and any other modified weapons designed to cause mass casualties. I recognize the sport aspects of firearms, from hunting to target shooting, but such modifications that are created for warzones have no place in the firearm marketplace for regular consumption. Further, individuals on the no fly list are able to purchase firearms; passing "no fly, no buy" laws is simple common sense.
We have common sense safety regulations for cars. It is harder to get a driver's license than it is to own a gun. Congress cannot continue to sit on its hands, or pander to special interests, while the carnage continues.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
Climate change is a very real threat and we already are seeing its devastating impact. We need leaders in Congress who know that climate change is caused by human activities and will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.
The Trump Administration has rejected science-based environmental and energy policy, instead catering to big oil companies through tax credits and loopholes. In Congress, I will stand up against Donald Trump's assault on environmental protections by supporting policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including pushing to reinstate our participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, end fossil fuel subsidies, invest in renewable energy sources, protect public lands, support sustainable infrastructure initiatives, and oppose dangerous pipeline proposals.
As a mother of two, I believe that we are stewards of our natural resources and have an obligation to preserve and protect our environment. I worked for the only Phd. scientist in Congress, and I will stand up for science and rationality. Peter Roskam has stood by Donald Trump every step of the way. He has not spoken up against the dismantling of the EPA or the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, and he has repeatedly voted with corporate interests that do harm to our environment and our world. Peter Roskam and Donald Trump's refusal to recognize that climate change is a danger to our country and to humanity is incomprehensible. For too long, Republicans like Peter Roskam have subsidized and protected the energy industry at the expense of both our environment and American taxpayers. It's time for Congress to end the loopholes and special tax breaks given to the oil industry, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and incentivize innovation and growth in the renewable energy sector.
I will champion renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, that also have been proven to create green jobs right here in Illinois and across the county. And In Congress, Protecting our nation's majestic landscape should not be a partisan issue. It's unacceptable that Donald Trump and Peter Roskam have made protecting our air and water a political issue at the expense of sound, forward-looking policy. Our environment and natural resources support businesses like agriculture and tourism which boost job growth across the state. That's why in Congress, I will support strengthening and enforcing the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
The U.S. made important strides over the last decade in fighting the effects of climate change. In Congress, I will stand in strong opposition to the Trump Administration's assault on the EPA and sound science, and will work to make the U.S. a leader in fighting climate change once again.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I enjoy shopping at thrift stores and garage sales. As I've mentioned, I grew up in a middle- class family and learned early on how to be careful with money. When my kids were born, I started shopping at garage sales to save money on clothes and toys. My kids liked going, and I found many unique items that had a sense of history to them. It's a great way to reuse and recycle as well. For a while, I even had a booth at an antique store while also working at a law firm.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I'm not an incumbent but I am the only candidate with experience serving constituents in a congressional office, and with the professional experience to successfully challenge Peter Roskam. As Congressman Bill Foster's District Chief of Staff, I focused on trying to make government work for the people again. I was proud to head a team that helped bring millions of dollars back to the district that could be reinvested in the community, and helped constituents receive the benefits they've earned -- whether it was helping veterans receive their disability payments, or helping seniors recover overdue social security benefits. We worked to ensure the voices of the community were heard. We met with constituents, and we listened to them. We affirmatively reached out by hosting community forums, attending events in the community, touring local business, and simply calling local nonprofits to let them know that we are available to serve.
Too often, people say government isn't working. I have helped make government work and want to keep doing so. Today, government isn't working for the people in Illinois' 6th Congressional District. As a public servant, former journalist and attorney, I have the skills to go head to head with Peter Roskam, and challenge him for continually voting against our community's shared values and interests. Being a representative means more than shaking hands in back rooms. It is about making decisions in the best interests of your constituents -- the people you have been entrusted to serve. It is time to bring back faith in our government.