CAMPTON HILLS – The five people seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 14th Congressional District seat in the primary election in March took part in the first forum for candidates Sept. 10.
The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, who was absent during the forum.
Hultgren did not respond to invitations from Fox Valley Action for Justice, which hosted the forum, co-administrator Rebecca Reber said at the reception following almost 90 minutes of questions posed to the candidates by the group and by members of the audience, which topped 100 in the sanctuary of The Congregational United Church of Christ in Campton Hills.
At the reception, people could learn more about the candidates’ proposals and their campaigns, and about the newly created Kane County Coalition. It pools members from five grass-roots activist groups who want to make an impact in the coming elections, Reber said, inviting people to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audience members voiced appreciation for the forum and the candidates’ participation.
“It’s good to see some positive candidates who have a good chance to beat Hultgren,” Page Poris of Geneva said at the reception.
The five candidates taking part were Matt Brolley, village president of Montgomery and a civil engineer; Victor Swanson of Batavia, a high school social studies teacher and Navy veteran; Lauren Underwood of Naperville, a nurse and graduate instructor; Jim Walz of Gurnee, a school board member and outside sales representative; and George Weber of Lakewood, a retired chemical engineer.
The forum opened in alphabetical order by asking the candidates to identify the three most important issues facing constituents in the district.
“To protect and improve upon our health care system,” Brolley said. “To invest in infrastructure, [whose good-paying] jobs can’t be outsourced; and improving on our education system.”
Swanson said health care is first on everyone’s mind.
“They want to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
“Second is education. It solves a lot of problems. We spend the same as Turkey and Mexico … we need to spend more on our children. [We need] to protect our voting rights. Barriers to voting [mean] less people vote.”
Appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, Underwood worked on implementing the Affordable Care Act. She emphasized protecting access to health care, followed by jobs and growing the economy.
“Finally, how to best protect our democracy,” Underwood said. “We are facing a proven threat in Russia meddling in our elections.”
Disease and misfortune know no political stripe, said Walz, who ran against Hultgren in 2016.
“We have to be strong advocates for single-payer universal health care … and get money out of politics,” Walz said. “Money is not free speech.”
He also said it’s consumers who create jobs with their spending.
Weber cited a lack of vocational training in the U.S. that leaves millions of high-paying jobs unfilled, as he spoke of more “prosperity for the middle class … these are easily solvable problems.”
He said the U.S. should copy other countries’ more effective yet less expensive health care systems.
“[As for] climate change, we know what to do there,” Weber said, noting he relies on facts and data rather than ideology.
During the forum, Brolley said he has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville.
The 14th Congressional District includes parts of Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.