Dr. Willie Lee Wilson
Running for:US Senate
Political party affiliation: Willie Wilson Party
Political/civic background:candidate for Mayor of Chicago, President of the U.S.
Civic background—see answer to question 6
Occupation: International businessman. (Started out as a sharecropper)
Facebook page: DrWillieWilson
YouTube: Willie Wilson 2020
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for U.S. Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and the country. Willie Wilson submitted the following responses:
Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not? What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why?
No, I believe that not enough attention has been paid to the poor and vulnerable populations who are almost defenseless to the pandemic. If you close down the economy, you become responsible for the health and welfare of those you have affected as well as those who were already without resources.
Without health insurance, regular medical care, access to medication, proper food/nutrition, inability to afford the face masks that are so essential to stopping the spread of the virus, the funds that have been made available are inadequate and poorly distributed. The problem, in my view is the government failed the people.
I give President Trump a D. His leadership regarding the pandemic has been erratic, inconsistent and the cost has been human lives.
We must do more to protect those who have no safety net as well as those who were thrown out of work by government decree.
What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?
The Federal Government has already printed and distributed over two trillion dollars and there are competing plans for a trillion more. Never has such a debt been created in such a short time in our country. The problem is Washington, state and local governments. The stimulus checks were poorly administered. The funds are not being used to help the poor and affected but to cover up old budget problems.
I believe some of the funds should be distributed from Washington directly to community not-for-profit organizations such as social service agencies and churches so that the local government can use the funds for other purposes.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform. It calls for the creation of a database to track police officers with multiple instances of misconduct, federal grants to encourage police departments to meet higher certification standards on use of force, and the greater involvement of social workers and mental health professionals when the police respond to calls dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The order also calls for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. Will this be enough to address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?
No. It is absolutely not enough. First, the executive order does not carry the force of law. It is up to Congress to pass comprehensive police reform. The House passed a reform bill and it failed in the Senate. Until both chambers can work together and pass a solid piece of reform legislation there will be no real reform.
Further, we need to provide funding mental health services, inpatient hospital, neighborhood outpatient treatment facilities, and psychiatric drug distribution.
We must immediately re-fund the mental health programs and facilities that have been whittled away by government. After that, we must fund programs for training, jobs and business development in our poorest communities. Children must be given a path to earning a living wage with apprenticeship programs, union job entry programs, entrepreneurship programs and grant programs to make these paths to livable wages possible.
Also in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the House passed the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police departments from using chokeholds, develop a national standard for use of force, limit the transfer of military weapons to police departments, define lynching as a federal hate crime, establish a national police misconduct registry, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not? What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform?
Police training and national standards are critical to give everyone peace of mind that all people are treated with fairness, dignity and respect while we maintain the essential standards of law and order. I fully support increased funding for police training and standards.
What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?
Presidential Pardons and commutations have a long history in our country; however, I believe using a Presidential Pardon does set a precedent. I have not reviewed this particular case in depth but I believe lobbyists need to be held to a higher standard and held accountable for their actions.
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or other paid or volunteer work to improve your community.
An example of recent causes I have taken up include
– Distributing One Million dollars in cash to people who lost their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic
– Distributing 27 million PPE facemasks to residents of Illinois
– Paying past due property taxes for residents in an effort to help them save their homes
– Paying nearly a million dollars to pay the past due property taxes for residents, who could not pay for a variety of reasons, including job loss, medical bills, divorce or just being on a fixed income.
– To help support these homeowners, I have proposed a Property Tax Hardship Relief bill that, if passed by the Illinois legislature, will prevent anyone with past due tax bills from being charged a higher interest rate to get their homes back.
– As an advocate for Bail Bond Reform, I have spent over a quarter million dollars, for the release of inmates charged with non-violent misdemeanors who are stuck in custody awaiting trial because they can’t afford to post bail. Frustrated by this problem, I proposed a Bail Bond Reform bill, which in June 2017, Illinois’ Governor, signed into law (SB 2034). The bill reforms the state’s bail-bond system so that poor people who commit minor offenses no longer languish in jail. We are now taking this program national.
– I was asked by the Governor to chair a task force mandated to increase government contracting with African American businesses. As a direct result, I brought a historic draft Executive Order to the Governor’s desk in less than sixty days. It placed real teeth for non-compliance with placing minority contracts. The Governor signed that order (2018-07) on May 17th, accomplishing what had merely been dreamt of for years
– Currently, HB 5024 is before the Illinois general Assembly to establish Reparations for the descendants of Slaves and should be voted on this year.
What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Was the impeachment process fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.
It seems to me that since Bill Clinton in 1998, Congress has tried to wrestle power from sitting Presidents through the impeachment process. I think this is wasting time and effort that should be directed at solving real problems, the everyday issues of the poor, middle class working poor and the homeless, senior citizens who daily are deciding on buying food or medicine. I am not in favor of political parties spending their time struggling for power when they should be struggling on issues for the people.
How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
We first need to look for waste, fraud and abuse in every level of government. Then we need to grow the economy and get more individuals back to work where they can be wage earners.
A deep look into where money is spent and ensuring that waste and abuse is eliminated.
What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?
I’d like to see a healthcare system where everyone has coverage. I would make modifications to the ACA to make sure that all individuals have health insurance. Medicare for All
Prescription drug costs are the result of pharmaceutical companies overcharging and inflating the prices. Our federal government should be providing oversight and keeping pharmaceutical companies transparent about their costs.
We need to work together, citizens, experts and politicians, to develop something new and comprehensive that we can-live with long term. This will take revisiting our national priorities such as military spending and foreign aid, expenditures outside the daily needs of our own people.
Do you support or oppose DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.
As a sharecropper and a man of color, I have known discrimination and disadvantage all of my life and am deeply sympathetic to anyone, anywhere who faces those issues. I sincerely want people to apply, enter this country and have a chance to succeed at every level, especially children who may be trapped in circumstances beyond their control. As an international businessman, I face thousands of rules and law issues with other countries every day and know I must follow the laws of their countries.
I believe we can solve the issues of these young people and other immigrants when all the congress is willing to discuss a complete immigration reform package.
What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?
1. Health care
2. Race, social justice and equity
3. Education and economic development
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?
The largest difference between me and my opponent is that I am a hard-working, self-made man. I worked hard to achieve every success I have had and I have done so with sweat and ambition. My opponent has never worked in the private sector. He is a career politician—37 years in Congress and is now worth $2 million! My opponent has had family members lobbying before Congress to push the agendas of their clients. He has not had the interest of the people of Illinois as his compass. It is time for a change. As a highly successful International businessman and philanthropist, I have spent over 40 years finding ways to help the poor and disenfranchised at home, across the nation and the world. As a deeply religious man, I am motivated to elected office to influence the distribution of tax dollars toward our domestic issues.
What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?
I believe the first step is to declare a State of Emergency in communities experiencing high levels of violence, poverty and hopelessness. Next, focus all resources from the federal, state and local governments to those areas. It is critical that the federal government work with local government to rebuild the communities within the State of Emergency and provide proper funding to mental health clinics.
Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?
Climate change is real and has been going on for millions of years. Scientifically, the planet goes through cycles of change and they are out of our control. Nature is very powerful and not necessarily only impacted by humankind.
A continued study and monitoring of major changes in the climate, nature and the environment is necessary.
What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
This is one of the most important issues that we face. When I visit senior homes, I find so many people who have food allowances as little as three dollars a week, who cannot buy medications, who cannot leave their little rooms, and who live in fear daily. We have to keep social security solvent and the promise we made to people we keep.
The social security tax structure must be changed giving priority to the rapidly growing senior population. Pension programs are near bankrupt across the country and need immediate reform. One simple change that should be considered is elimination of the annual cap on social security deductions. This can resolve a large portion of the ratio of working to retired issue.
What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?
Yes, student loans are in crisis. It is estimated that 43 million Americans—roughly 1/6 of the U.S. population over 18- owe a total of over $1.5 trillion in student debt. Crisis is the only word that appropriately describes the student loan debt in America. Our children are beginning life with hundreds of thousands in debt for degrees that may never earn them a living, let alone allow them to retire their school debt.
Education must be made more affordable hence resulting in less newly acquired student loan debt. We should allow students to refinance loans at today’s interest rates. We should also eliminate the federal government’s profiting on student loans.
What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?
I believe in having positive relations with everyone, every country. As a spiritual person, I am taught to both, love your neighbor as yourself as well as to love your enemies. For our country to prosper we must seek good relations with everyone on our plant.
What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.
As an international businessman, I deal with this issue daily and can tell you that trade tariffs are a bad thing, however every country in the world uses them to gain an advantage. While I am not a fan of tariffs, I recognize that our country is often taken advantage of on the world stage and tariffs are a necessary tool in that reality. We should seek tariff neutrality whenever possible.
Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.
While I believe that democracy gives people the best chance at a good life, I believe we should promote democracy by example, not intervention. So far, we have not always set the best example.
What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?
I believe we must always talk to one another, continuously. In my political campaigns I have always invited my opponents to meet and talk about issues and not treated them as enemies. Whatever the issue is in life we can always do better by communicating and learning from one another. I do not believe anyone truly wants to destroy another, talking and listening is the way forward.
Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
I admire the late Harold Washington. As the first African American mayor of the City of Chicago he was a role model and an inspiration to many. I strive to inspire our young people, as well.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
SingSation! I have loved every minute of it for over thirty years!
Get to know the other U.S. Senate candidates from Illinois:
- David Black, Green Party
- Mark C. Curran Jr., Republican
- Richard J. Durbin, Democrat
- Danny Malouf, Libertarian