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EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Kelly Mazeski

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (6th district)

Kelly Mazeski

Kelly Mazeski

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (6th district)

Occupation
Former Product Development Chemist, Stepan Co., Former Financial Adviser, Shearson Lehman Hutton, Administrative Assistant
Past Political/Civic Experience
I have served 18 years in my local government as a Village Trustee and Zoning Commissioner in North Barrington and currently as a Plan Commissioner in Barrington Hills. My experience in each of these positions has taught me the importance of listening to the concerns of my constituents so I can work in their best interest when voting on local matters. I will take this same approach with me to Washington so I can best represent the constituents of the 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?

I am open to finding bipartisan solutions to address our historic levels of debt but Peter Roskam and the Republicans in Congress recently proved by passing their new tax bill, that they have no interest in working with Democrats to find solutions that benefit most Americans rather than giant corporations and the ultra-rich.

I believe that while the US must remain the largest and most advanced military power, it is not necessary to spend more for defense than the next seven countries combined. We need to find smart ways to reduce military spending without sacrificing national security or the military readiness of our troops. Our country needs to look into the future to see where we can increase our tax base without raising rates.

Investing in the next generation by expanding Pell Grants and increasing the effectiveness of our education system means we will have millions of additional Americans entering the workforce and becoming taxpaying citizens.

Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?

I support eliminating the carried interest loophole in our tax system. Hedge fund managers should not pay less in taxes than teachers, law enforcement, or nurses. Estimates have shown eliminating this loophole could increase revenue by as much as $180 billion over 10 years. That's money that could be used to fund CHIP, fix our crumbling infrastructure, or ensure millions of Americans have access to Pell Grants.

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.

I am against any reductions in Medicare and Medicaid benefits because we cannot leave the elderly, low-income families, and our society's most vulnerable at risk of financial ruin due to overwhelming healthcare costs.

We must start controlling costs by allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate drug prices with insurance companies, using the same negotiating power that the Veterans Health Association has for our veteran's drug costs. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) found numerous areas where Medicare could cut unnecessary payments or subsidies, which could save tens of billions of dollars annually without reducing access to or quality of care.

Also, an important overlooked point is that by 2030, it's estimated there will only be around 2.3 workers for every Medicare beneficiary. We must help millions of young Americans enter the workforce by expanding and enhancing our education system to increase their participation in America's workforce, which will grow the taxpayer base and help make the system more solvent.

What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?

Affordable, quality healthcare is a right, not a privilege which is why I announced my campaign on the same day Peter Roskam and the Republicans in Congress voted to make Americans pay more to get less for their healthcare last May.

The Federal Government should have a two-pronged approach to ensure that the Affordable Care Act continues to work for the American people, and to improve access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans. The government should continue to pay for advertising campaigns promoting open enrollment, expand the open enrollment period, and reverse President Trump's executive order slashing subsidies for the low-income families and individuals buying health insurance on the exchanges. Congress should also pass a Medicare-for-all public option that will compete side-by-side with private insurances companies on the healthcare exchange.

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?

Although our economy has recovered from the Great Recession, we still need to create an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. Since the 1980s, income inequality in our country has been growing and the Republican tax bill that favors the ultra-rich and giant corporations will further increase inequality in America, which is very troubling.

We need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential, and a prosperous middle class is essential to that, but America's middle class is shrinking. Income inequality and the lack of upward mobility are the worst they have been in generations. Congress needs to address income inequality in two ways: by investing in education and making sure the rules of the economy support the middle class and working families.

We need to put good-paying jobs within reach for everyone who is willing to work hard. Education and job training is critical for this to happen. Our government should invest in job skills training and increase educational opportunity for all, from expanding access to preschool to making higher education affordable.

But investing in education and job training is only half the battle. We need to invest in our country's infrastructure and renewable energy to build an economy of the future, while creating good-paying jobs in the process. Congress should also rewrite the rules of the economy so that the middle class and working families get their fair share. We need to crack down on companies that shift their profits overseas to avoid paying US taxes and make sure companies that move jobs abroad don't get tax breaks. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. And we need to guarantee workers paid leave so they can raise their kids and take care of their loved ones without sacrificing their careers.

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?

Since the time of our founding fathers, America has been a nation of immigrants where people come to America because it represents hope and opportunity. There is no question that our immigration system today is broken. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will treat undocumented immigrants fairly, introduces them into our formal economy, and protects our borders.

Additionally, President Trump's actions regarding DREAMers has threatened hardworking young people in America who, through no fault of their own, were brought here as children by their parents. Congress must pass the DREAM Act to provide these individuals with legal status in our country.

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?

America should continue to pursue its strategy of economic pressure and diplomacy in partnership with China to contain Kim Jong Un's regime. America should avoid military action as a response to the threat of nuclear weapons posed by North Korea. A military response would put millions of South Korean, Japanese and US troops lives at risk and cause a refugee crisis in China.

Given the proximity of North Korea to Japan and South Korea, if America were to launch a surgical strike on North Korea, the hostile country would likely retaliate against US allies Japan and South Korea with missile strikes. Pyongyang has the world's largest artillery arsenal and could use its missiles to strike Japan or South Korea within minutes of an American strike, threatening the lives of millions. These actions would cause the region to quickly destabilize and create a large-scale refugee crisis, where millions would flee north to China, which is something China voiced it does not want to happen.

ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?

My number one job in Congress will be to keep America safe against threats both foreign and domestic. The threat of ISIS or from domestic terrorists is real and our government should take additional steps to identify and stop future terrorist attacks. My priorities in Congress to keep the country safe will include rebuilding relationships between the Muslim community and the government, repealing the horrific Muslim ban, and providing our law enforcement, first responders and intelligence community with the resources and training necessary to prevent future attacks.

Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?

If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons it would be catastrophic to Israel, the Middle East, and the world's stability, which is why I believe the US, should continue to abide by the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. In Congress, I will work hard to ensure that it is implemented the way its authors intended, to block Iran's pathway to nuclear weapons. Now that the Iran Nuclear Deal has prevented Iran from achieving its status as a nuclear-armed state, the United States and its allies can concentrate on Iran's record of human rights violations, undermining peace in the Middle East, and threatening foreign interests in the region.

What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?

I believe we need to have a clear path towards ending the longest war in US history and bringing all of our soldiers and loved ones back on American soil; however, it would be irresponsible to pull our troops out without providing the Afghani military with the resources they need. In the short term, we need to find a way to continue President Obama's decision to reduce the size of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and continue having a training presence in Afghanistan to help Afghani military forces learn counter-terror tactics and ensure they are able to secure their own country. However, it's clear the US must have confidence in the ability of Afghani forces to prevent terrorist safe havens in the country before fully withdrawing.

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.

I believe the single most important action Congress can take to curb violence in America is to expand criminal background checks for gun purchases over the internet, at gun shows, in newspaper ads, or friends and family transfers. Studies show expanding criminal background checks are effective at keeping guns away from individuals who are most likely to use them to commit a crime. I also support banning the sale and use of "bump stocks" because there is no reason an individual should be able to unload ammunition at the firing speed of a semi-automatic weapon unless they're in the military and at war.

Additionally, I would support legislation closing the boyfriend loophole, preventing anyone on the FBI's No Fly List from purchasing guns, and providing funding to the National Institute of Health to conduct research on gun violence prevention. I think it's important to recognize the 2nd amendment's unique history and role within American society while recognizing the overwhelming public majority supports commonsense legislation that will prevent future gun violence. For example, 92% of Americans including 87% of Republicans, support expanding background checks on all gun purchases. This is an important step in enhancing gun safety without infringing on our constitutional right to own a firearm.

Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?

As a lifelong environmentalist, I understand the implications of climate change and know how important it is for the US government to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. First, Congress needs to pass legislation for America to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. It is disgraceful that the United States of America is the only country to not participate. Second, America needs to move away from its reliance on fossil fuels and move America to a renewable energy economy. This will create jobs nationwide and within our district, while also minimizing our carbon footprint. Lastly, we must ensure that the EPA, the only agency dedicated to protecting our health and the environment, remains a watch guard for both.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I am a devoted Indy 500 race fan.

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.

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