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Local Election

Underwood, Casten address guns, environment at candidates forum in Crystal Lake

What originally was meant to be a candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of McHenry County on Monday for candidates in the 6th and 14th Congressional districts turned into a question-and-answer session when only the challengers showed up.

Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten, Democratic congressional candidates in Illinois’ 14th and 6th districts, respectively, then were left to address submitted questions from the audience, discussing issues such as guns in schools and the environment.

Moderator Anna Gifford of the League of Women Voters said 14th District Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, declined a request to attend the event, while 6th District Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, never responded.

When asked what could be done to protect teachers and students in schools, Casten said there are a number of changes that would not infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners.

As many mass shooters in the country have been white men with a history of domestic violence, Casten said that should be one of the things dealt with on improving background checks.

Underwood, who was a half-hour late to the event at McHenry County College, said gun reforms such as universal background checks need to be passed.

“If 90 percent of the country supports the policy, I can’t understand why the bill hasn’t been called,” Underwood said.

Possibly because of Casten’s background in climate change, a number of audience questions focused on the environment.

Casten voiced concerns over proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, it will be critical for the legislature to keep the actions of the executive branch in check, he said.

“It’s pretty easy when you put adults in charge,” Casten said.

Underwood said she worked on the Flint water crisis under the Obama administration and had the EPA not been fully staffed and funded, the problem would not have been caught at the federal level.

The candidates also were tasked with identifying their most important issues for 2019.

Casten said that although he would like to make climate change a priority should he be elected, restoring faith in the nation’s democratic institutions will be the most important issue.

Underwood, a nurse and health policy expert from Naperville, said health care reform will be her most important issue if elected.

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