On Jan. 15, Matthew Brolley appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic seat in the 14th Congressional districtof Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Victor Swanson. I live in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District and I’m running in that district. I’m a high school social studies teacher for the last 18 years and a decorated U.S. Navy veteran.
My specific cause will be education. As a teacher I find that education can solve so many other problems and I believe that if we invest in education and invest in children then we will be able to solve those other problems that we have as a country. My number one specific priority would be universal Pre-K. As I said, investing in education is very important to me. Right now as a country we spend on par with Turkey and Mexico as a country on education and on children and we need to invest in our children if we believe that our children really are our future. So that would be my number one cause.
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. Victor Swanson 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: My passion for education not only led me to become a public school teacher but also continues to influence the way that I see solutions to many of our problems. Since I began teaching 18 years ago, the low-income population of every school district in the 14th district has doubled and sometimes even tripled. At the same time many of our school districts’ budgets have decreased. As always, schools have been asked to do more with less. Our nation cannot continue to thrive unless we invest in early education and K-12 education. I support universal pre-K for families. Noble laureate James Heckman’s Heckman Equation states that the more you invest in children from birth to kindergarten, especially for low-income children, the higher rate of return on investment our society will receive. I also support family paid leave so that families can spend more time together at the beginning of their life as a family. As an additional investment in our children and education we need to offer greater subsidies for high-quality child care that meet the Annenberg Standards. Also affordable higher education would also be a priority for me as well. We need to allow students to greater flexibility to refinance their student loan debt, we need to offer more loan forgiveness programs, and reduce, if not eliminate the interest paid on student loans. Every day, as a teacher, I see the cost of not investing in families and children. I see students who are hungry, students who can’t focus, and students who can’t see a way out of the poverty in which they live. If we truly want to continue being the beacon of light to the world, we need to start investing more aggressively in families and our children.
Running for: 14th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: High School Social Studies Teacher and Navy Veteran
Occupation: High School Social Studies Teacher
Education: B.S. in Social Science Secondary Education from Illinois State University, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Northern Illinois University
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:Again, the low-income population of every school district in the 14th Congressional district has doubled in the last 18 years. Since the state and some of our local municipalities have not been able to fully ensure that the needs of citizens have been met, it is time for the federal government to step in. Our children need to have the resources that are necessary for their own growth and that of our district.
District 14 needs Metra service expanded and made more convenient for the people of our district, specifically including adding additional stations in Oswego and Yorkville. As our cities continue to see growth, we need to find ways to connect them with the larger Chicago Metropolitan Area.
The rising cost of college is an issue that affects the 14th district and needs to be addressed. Whether it is the over 42% of individuals in our district that have a college degree but are still paying off their student loans or the nearly 40% of people in the district with families that hope to one day send their children to college for a better future.
RELATED ARTICLES: Victor Swanson
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: If the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 election, I believe that my focus on education is something on which the GOP should be willing to compromise. Investing in children is essential and should stretch across partisan divides. I pledge to District 14 to examine every issue as objectively as possible regardless of party affiliation. I hope and expect my colleagues in both parties to do the same.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION:What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: Without knowing the full outcome of the Mueller Investigation, and irrespective of any flaws in our electoral system, Democrats have to recognize that President Trump was elected. Democrats have to recognize that we have lost many local elections, state governor races, and state legislatures over the last eight years. We as a party need to do some reflection and soul searching and come back stronger and truly work for the people. President Trump does not speak for the working class. The manner in which he treats and speaks to people was not how I was raised and I do not agree with it.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: The Trump administration though has continually done things to hurt the most vulnerable in our society including but not limited to our children, the sick, the poor, the elderly, and the environment. I cannot support that and will fight those actions until the end.
The most important thing that the Trump administration has done that I support is that they have been making the Opioid epidemic a crisis which provides some extra attention and resources for the problem. Secondly, I’m appreciative of the fact that the Trump Administration, as of the time of this submission, as continued to allow the Mueller investigation to continue without interference so that we may all learn the truth. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that the Trump administration has led the rise of “the resistance movement” which is transforming politics, igniting the spark for political interest in our youth and reigniting the flames of political interest in adults across the country I’m grateful for that.
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: Yes, Robert Mueller has my support. That four people have already been charged with crimes including two guilty pleas speaks volumes to the comprehensive and thorough approach with which Mueller and his team have undertaken their oaths to fighting for justice. We must allow Special Counsel Mueller to continue his investigation until he believes the investigation is finished. Similarly, we must all, Republican and Democrat, accept the outcomes of the investigation regardless of how it turns out.
QUESTION:What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: One thing that the ongoing War on Terror has proven is how essential intelligence sharing with our closest allies has been. One of our first priorities in keeping the country safe must be to reaffirm and strengthen our relationship with our close allies in order to continue reciprocal information that can help stop the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere abroad. Secondly, we need to continue to strengthen our military by investing in the Armed Forces from enlistment to post-service support. We are only as strong and the proud men and women in uniform. We must fully support them to ensure that our troops on the ground remain the strongest and most capable armed forces in the world. In addition to the aforementioned, as for reducing the threat of terrorism at home, we need to enforce the laws that we currently have, invest in mental health care, and it means studying the effects of gun violence.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION:What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: The most important thing that Congress can do to curb gun violence is fund a non-partisan study on gun violence. Through that study society can better understand how to curb gun violence which, in turn, can lead Congress to pass legislation that is substantial, but reasonable and effective.
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 would favor any law that would limit gun violence, especially the ability to kill multiple people quickly including bans on the sale of “bump stocks.” As previously answered, funding a study on gun violence will provide the country with answers about what kind of legislation will best limit gun violence in the United States.
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: As a teacher and a concerned citizen, the ever growing gap between the wealthy and the poor is very troubling. Your editorial board is correct in recognizing that differences between the haves and have-nots continue to grow with fiscal and monetary policies which tend to favor the top 1 percent of affluent and highly educated people. The tax plan passed by Congress continues this legacy of further dividing us. We need to provide tax breaks and credits for those people who spend money. The top 1% will not spend the money that they reap from the tax cuts. The working class, people who take care of children, and people who take care of the growing elderly population spend money, create jobs and grow the economy. These people are the ones that deserve the tax breaks. When the middle class or working class is strong the economy is strong. Currently we are losing the middle class. The “silent hand” needs a little shove in the right direction.
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: I do not support President Trump moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. This move will not help to create any lasting peace between Israel and the Middle East. The moving of the embassy along with the administration’s travel ban will only create further resentment, specifically in this region, towards the United States.
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: Our response to Kim Jong Un’s regime cannot be unilateral given our Pacific allies proximity to North Korea. We need to continue to press our allies, including China to pressure North Korea with economic and diplomatic sanctions. I appreciate what our military is capable of, but as a proud Navy veteran, I understand too well everything that comes with a decision to use our military might. Of course military action is plausible, but I am reluctant to consider it and would only explore the option as the last possible response.
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 do not support any travel ban, including the Trump administration’s latest attempt, that is not rooted in actual data about countries harboring and supporting terrorists. I believe that our courts are the arbiters of justice and Constitutionality. Therefore, I’ll support the decision of our courts. In general, I am not a fan of travel bans that take into account superfluous information like religion in the decision making.
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: Immigrants do not pose a threat to the “American way of life”. On the contrary they are the American way of life. We are a nation of immigrants. My grandfather came to the United States through Ellis Island by himself at the age of 12. He went on to run a small union plumbing shop in Aurora, IL and with the help of my grandmother went on to raise 4 children who went on to run small businesses themselves. Immigrants today still bring valuable skills and knowledge to make this country better.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: The border wall between the United States and Mexico should not be built. The wall will not accomplish anything except some temporary jobs and a large maintenance bill that will affect the budget for years to come. There are many more reasonable and effective alternatives to building a border wall in an effort to improve our immigration policies.
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: Ending the individual mandate does threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA is reliant on a stable insurance market and taking away the individual mandate creates more instability. The first steps should be stabilize the ACA by providing more money to insurance companies to cover the high risk pool that causes insurance premiums to rise. We also need to ensure that younger and healthy people get enrolled in health insurance programs, and eventually we need to make sure that everyone has affordable quality health insurance in the form of a single payer program.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION:What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I am not a generic Democrat, a career politician or an experienced bureaucrat. For the past 18 years I have been a public high school social studies teacher. I am also a veteran of the United States Navy who earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. I have never run for or been appointed to public office. I represent the everyman and everywoman of the 14th Congressional District in Illinois. I represent those without adequate access to health care. I represent those without adequate access to quality education. I represent those seniors needing help, those children needing help and those unemployed and underemployed needing help. I represent those adversely affected by our legal system needing help. Those who need help, period. Those are the people who I represent.