On Jan. 30, Carole Cheney appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic seat in the 6th Congressional Districtof Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
I’m Carole Cheney. I’m running for the 6th Congressional District. Most recently, I was a public servant. I worked in the office of Congressman Bill Foster as his Illinois chief of staff. I’ve also been very involved in the community. I’ve gone on a couple missions to Haiti. I’ve been on the board of local boys and girls clubs as well as the Children’s Advocacy Center that helps abused children. I used to be on the National Safety Council as its media coordinator as well.
Well, there’s a couple of specific causes. One of them is that Peter Roskam just has not been giving his community a voice, and I want to be a voice to the constituents of the Illinois 6th District. When I was Illinois chief to Congressman Bill Foster, I did exactly what Peter Roskam was not doing. I met with constituents and listened to them, spearheaded outreach efforts, got refunds to disabilities and senior citizens who needed them. People need that in the 6th District and I also want to focus on our economy and our healthcare.
The tax plan that Peter Roskam worked so hard to pass helps corporations at the expense of the middle class. I grew up in a middle class family. My dad was a butcher. I understand what it’s like to work extremely hard and we want to be the land of opportunity again and healthcare is an important part of one’s economic stability. I’m in the ACA myself. I understand the need and the fact that basic healthcare is a right to all Americans and I want to work to protect and improve our healthcare system.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Congress a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Carole Cheney submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: As a member of the House from Illinois, please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: Throughout this questionnaire, I will address many of the pressing issues that face my family, residents of my congressional district, and citizens of the United States. But when it comes to Illinois’ 6th Congressional, one issue is at the heart of how we address problems and find solutions: our representative has stopped working for us.
A career politician rather than a public servant, Peter Roskam has stopped being responsive to his district and is instead beholden to the power structure and influence of Washington, D.C. We have seen it again and again, especially over the last year — from working to strip away our health care to overhauling the tax code in a way that benefits a very select few and actually hurts the economic interests of the people he is supposed to represent. This type of representation simply isn’t working for 6th District residents.
During my time serving as Congressman Bill Foster’s District Chief of Staff, I made government work for, and be more responsive to, its constituents. I focused on listening to residents, hearing the concerns of our communities, and working towards solutions. I met with constituents, and reached out to not-for-profits and local businesses. I organized community forums on issues of concern, including the ACA, climate change, bigotry and issues facing women in our society.
I worked to ensure constituents received the government services they had earned — from social security for seniors to disability payments for veterans. My actions weren’t informed by power brokers or special interests. They were guided by a dedication to serving constituents and making government work for the people. There is an opportunity to restore that priority in Illinois’ 6th Congressional District and I offer the experience to make that a reality.
District running for: 6th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: Former District Chief of Staff for Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11)
Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, Board Member
Boys & Girls Club of Joliet, Board Member
Feed My Starving Children, Former Chicago Advisory Board Member
Naperville Township Democratic Organization, Vice-Chair
Family Focus Aurora, Former Advisory Board Member
Haiti Mission Trips with St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 2008 & 2016
National Safety Council, Former National News Media Coordinator
National Public Radio Peoria Affiliate, Former News Director
Occupation: Attorney and Public Servant
Education:1983 University of Illinois Urbana, BA in Broadcast Journalism, University Honors
1984 University of Illinois Springfield, MS in Public Affairs Reporting
1991 Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Editor in Chief of Law Review, Order of the Coif, JD
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: The 6th District needs responsive representation because Peter Roskam has forgotten about his constituents. My priority will be giving a voice back to the 6th District, and making government more responsive to constituents. When I joined Congressman Bill Foster’s office as his Illinois Chief of Staff I did exactly what Peter Roskam does not do: I met with constituents — and listened to them We helped constituents navigate bureaucracy from helping veterans receive their disability payments, to helping seniors recover Social Security benefits. I am the only candidate with experience making government work for people, and I want to use that experience to serve the residents of Illinois’ 6th District.
Rather than serve the needs of the people in the 6th District, Peter Roskam has served special interests. He has repeatedly supported efforts to repeal and sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and in doing so has increased instability in the insurance markets which increases health care costs. I will fight to ensure everyone in the 6th District — and every American — has access to quality, affordable health insurance. We absolutely need to improve the ACA because health insurance remains too expensive. Peter Roskam isn’t interested in improving health care or reducing costs — he only cares about catering to his special interest, corporate donors. I will fight to ensure every American has access to health care by supporting a public option to provide additional choice and lowering the eligibility age for Medicare, and working to find rational ways to reduce costs while providing quality health care.
Healthcare is just one element of a critical issue to every American family in the 6th District — economic security. 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. Students graduating from college have no assurance of finding a job and face burdensome student loan costs. Many people still have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and small business has been particularly slow to recover. Workers who have lost their jobs need retaining, and the skills gap must be addressed. The stock market does not measure the economic health of our middle-class families. A critical issue in our country — and the 6th District — is rising income inequality.
During the 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. I will support policies that enable the middle-class to expand and grow in the economy of today and tomorrow. Our economy has changed and will continue to change with advances in technology. Congress needs to prepare for the future changes in our economy and job growth, to make sure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed.
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QUESTION: If you are running as a Democrat, what is your best idea for getting any initiative you may propose advanced if the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections?
ANSWER: Democrats and Republicans in Congress need to find common ground. The need to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is one prime example. Members of both parties recognize the value of revitalizing our communities that would surely be aided by an infrastructure plan. Rebuilding roads and restoring our bridges not only helps keep Americans safe, it creates jobs and puts Americans to work, thereby enhancing economic growth. I also believe that support for our nation’s small businesses is an area in which we can find bipartisan support. Our nation’s small businesses are the foundation of our economy and Congress needs to support them and help them grow.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: Rather than an aspirational leader who serves this country with dignity, Donald Trump uses the Presidency as his own personal bully pulpit and engages in erratic behavior that promotes divisiveness, ignores the interests of the middle-class, and diminishes our reputation internationally through his dangerous, unprecedented foreign policy by tweet. Governance by tweet does not produce sound policy, and does not advance the interests of the people of our great country.
Instead of working to accomplish the things he promised during his campaign — such as creating jobs, restoring our nation’s infrastructure and helping the middle-class — President Trump engages in divisive rhetoric and employs policies that promote extreme political agendas while ignoring proven facts. He is dismantling important protections in areas ranging from the environment to worker safety, and is promoting an agenda that stomps on social justice. While working in a congressional office, I saw the harmful impact of his immigration travel bans — executive orders that were based on unconstitutional religious bigotry — and how people in our communities were hurt. Rather than focusing on attacking the news media, Donald Trump should focus on helping middle-class families thrive.
We need leaders who respect our system of government, and the checks and balances designed to protect the people in this country. And we need Members of Congress who recognize that Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy, our nation, and our way of life. Congress must play its role as a check on the Executive Branch — and our increasingly unstable President — to protect the American people.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: The Trump Administration and Congress have not accomplished anything that supports the middle-class over the past year, and instead have been busy stripping away the things our families depend on. The recent tax overhaul is nothing more than a handout to corporations and billionaires paid for by removing important deductions working families depend on. President Trump and Peter Roskam continue to destabilize the health insurance markets and sabotage the Affordable Care Act rather than work to reduce health care costs.
Furthermore, rather than helping the middle-class, the Trump administration seems intent on dividing our country — for example, through attempts to restrict legal immigration on the basis of religious bigotry, and his “both sides” response to the Charlottesville tragedy. President Trump’s foreign policy by tweet irresponsibly endangers every American and tarnishes our nation’s standing abroad. Additionally, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is a prime example of the administration’s general approach of placing political agendas ahead of proven facts.
QUESTION: What is your view of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Does Mueller have your support?
ANSWER: Robert Mueller has my full support and I would expect that same support from any elected official regardless of political ideology. When there is a threat to our democracy — in this case, the sanctity of our elections — it must be investigated without bias.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Terrorism abroad and domestic continues to endanger our families, our nation, and our way of life. We must work against those who would threaten and harm innocent lives by giving the resources to combat the scourge of terrorism. We also need to put sound policy ahead of politics. For example, individuals on the no fly list are able to purchase firearms; passing “no fly, no buy” laws is simple common sense.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: Address the issue 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 sit idle while tragedy after tragedy demonstrates all too clearly that 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.
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.
Congress must also act. 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 mentally ill, is a commonsense step in preventing the numerous tragedies we’ve seen over the last several years. It’s a first step in combating gun violence to protect innocent victims. 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 idly by while the carnage continues.
QUESTION: Do you favor a law banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” that increase the firing speed of semi-automatic weapons? Why? Do you favor any further legal limits on guns of any kind? Or, conversely, what gun restrictions should be done away with?
ANSWER: I 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.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
QUESTION: As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation supported by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but it does not look to us like the “silent hand” of the market is functioning properly, rewarding merit fairly. We are troubled that the top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 90 percent own just 22.8 percent of the wealth.
Tell us how we are right or wrong about this. Does the growing income and wealth gap trouble you?
ANSWER: Yes, this is a key concern for our nation. I am extremely troubled by the growing wealth gap in the United States. And this gap will only be enhanced by the Republican tax plan that has been signed by the President. It is a handout for corporations, special interests and billionaires paid for by increasing taxes on the middle-class in the long term.
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. Make no mistake: this bill is another step towards increased inequality and decreased opportunity. And potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would be yet another dangerous step in increasing the wealth gap in this country.
TOPIC: International affairs
QUESTION: Do you support the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? How will this help or hinder efforts to secure a lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors?
ANSWER: The United States’ long-held policy has been to support a peaceful solution for Israel and its Middle East neighbors. The lack of process involved in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — foreign policy by tweet, if you will — is extremely dangerous. Foreign policy should be established through a methodical process at all times. In this instance, Donald Trump made a complete and unanticipated shift 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.
QUESTION: Is military action by the United States a plausible response to the nuclear weapons threat posed by North Korea? How might a U.S. military response play out for South Korea, Japan and China? What alternative do you support?
ANSWER: We must exhaust diplomatic measures before rushing into another war. Working with our world and regional partners, we must seek ways to disarm North Korea and their potential of nuclear weapons. Only after that route is exhausted should a military response be explored that would ultimately require Congressional approval for a declaration of war.
QUESTION: The Supreme Court has ruled that the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on eight countries with predominantly Muslim populations can go into effect while legal challenges against the ban continue. What is your position on this travel ban?
ANSWER: I am strongly opposed. 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.
Shortly after the first executive order that temporarily blocked refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from coming into the country, I worked with Congressman Foster to host an event at which this solder and translator, along with others, addressed the harm that would come from the executive order. Sadly, after the first immigration ban was issued, Peter Roskam issued (on February 2, 2017) a news release calling it a “necessary first step in protecting the homeland,” and supported it in a radio interview as well. I disagree; the authority to restrict immigration does not include doing so on a basis of religious bigotry and in a manner contrary to our values as a nation. We need an administration clearly focused on keeping people who mean to do us harm out of this country, rather than political stunts that diminish our ability to focus on real threats.
QUESTION: Has the United States in the last decade been accepting too many immigrants, and does this pose a threat to the American way of life?
ANSWER: Since its inception, the United States has been a nation of immigrants and this is a part of what has made it the greatest country in the world. My grandfather came here from Hungary, and built an upholstery business. Peter Roskam, Donald Trump, and the Republican Party have forgotten that throughout history immigrants have come to our country seeking opportunity. In fact, this is what makes America great — that anyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of country of origin.
QUESTION:Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: No, the wall should not be built. The wall was proposed by Donald Trump as political showmanship, and Republicans like Peter Roskam callously joined the chorus calling for a wall to earn cheap political points. The wall would not reduce illegal immigration, but it would waste resources that could be used to help the middle-class, tarnish our southern border, be impeded by imminent domain laws, and send the message that we don’t value our relationship with a trusted ally.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: The tax reform plan created by Republican majorities in the House and Senate would eliminate the Obamacare “individual mandate” that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Does this threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act? What more on this, if anything, should be done?
ANSWER: Rather than sabotage efforts, we should work to improve the ACA, as I do believe improvements can be made. Health insurance remains too expensive. Every American has a right to basic health care. Options that have been proposed and should be considered range from adding a public option to provide additional choice, to lowering the eligibility age for Medicare. We should be looking for rational ways to reduce costs while providing quality health care, not undermining or repealing the ACA, in order to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I am the only candidate with experience serving constituents in a congressional office, and with the professional experience to successfully challenge Peter Roskam on the campaign trail. As a 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.
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. It is time to replace Peter Roskam with someone who is focused on serving the interests of this community, not special interests. Being a representative means more than shaking hands in back rooms. It is time to bring back faith in our government.