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Taking a position: Candidates’ views on the issues

eana Caminiti casts her vote at a polling place on election day February 24, 2015 in Chicago (File Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

You’ve seen their television ads — perhaps with a gruff voice describing their competitors, a menacing shadow, or a flat out insult. But how do candidates in some of the top contested races in the March 15 primary feel about the real issues?

Where do they stand on gun violence, Obamacare, or climate change?

Here are condensed responses to some of the questions the Sun-Times Editorial Board asked candidates in a comprehensive questionnaire.


U.S. SENATE RACE

DEMOCRATS

U.S. Senate Democratic primary candidates, from left, Andrea Zopp, Tammy Duckworth and Napoleon Harris met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. File Photo. Rich Hein/Sun-Times

U.S. Senate Democratic primary candidates, from left, Andrea Zopp, Tammy Duckworth and Napoleon Harris met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. File Photo. Rich Hein/Sun-Times

 

U.S. REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH

Does climate change exist and is it caused by humans? Yes. It’s caused by human activity and further inaction will be detrimental for the planet and for children’s futures.

Should Obamacare be overturned? No, but believes Congress should work together to improve the Affordable Care Act.

Should federal funds for Planned Parenthood be pulled? No, arguing Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services for women, including cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment and birth control.

Do you support helping young immigrants who grew up here without legal papers (DREAMers) gain U.S. citizenship? Says sending DREAMers back home to a country they’ve never known is “inhumane,” and cites their contributions to the economy and to society as a reason to support their citizenship.

Position on Republican presidential calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: Opposes any ban on the immigration of Muslims into the U.S.

Top three legislative priorities for the country: Building an economy that works from the bottom up rather than the top down; making college accessible and affordable; honoring the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and veterans

 

STATE SEN. NAPOLEON HARRIS

Does climate change exist and is it caused by humans? Climate change is caused by human activity and is a global threat. Supports the Paris Agreement and the reduction of fossil fuel use.

Should Obamacare be overturned? Vows to fight any efforts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Care and supports extending the small business tax credit to encourage small businesses to hire new employees or give current ones a raise without a fear of burdensome health care benefit costs.

Should federal funds for Planned Parenthood be pulled? No. Argues Planned Parenthood provides critical personal health services, information and advocacy.

Do you support helping young immigrants who grew up here without legal papers (DREAMers) gain U.S. citizenship? Yes. Believes DREAMers should be allowed to pursue a path to legal citizenship and believes deporting children is bad public policy.

Position on Republican presidential calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.?: Opposes any ban on admitting Muslims because he believes they have not demonstrated any more of a propensity for violence than any other group in society.

Top three legislative priorities for the country: Small business growth; approving qualified Supreme Court judges; criminal justice reform

  

ANDREA ZOPP

Does climate change exist and is it caused by humans? Yes. Believes human activity is the primary cause of climate change and that the problem must be solved world-wide by striving for energy independence, working to lower energy prices and promoting a better and more cost-effective energy future.

Should Obamacare be overturned? Believes in the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, namely the expansion of Medicaid in all 50 states. Also supports a review of implementation of the act.

Should federal funds for Planned Parenthood be pulled? Opposes defunding Planned Parenthood and believes the organization, among others are key to ensuring women are in control of their own healthcare.

Do you support helping young immigrants who grew up here without legal papers (DREAMers) gain U.S. citizenship? Believes we must offer undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship, which would encourage payment of taxes, include a penalty or fine and require passing national security and criminal background checks.

Position on Republican presidential calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: Opposes any ban on immigrant admissions that is based on religion, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or familial status.

Three top legislative priorities for the country: Comprehensive criminal justice reform that reduces over criminalization, addresses the juvenile justice system and promotes successful reentry; increasing economic opportunities and rebuilding the middle class; immigration reform that provides pathways to citizenship and includes more humane enforcement of laws.

 

U.S. SENATE

REPUBLICANS

SEN. MARK KIRK

Sen. Mark Kirk.. (File Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)

Sen. Mark Kirk.. (File Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)

Does climate change exist and is it caused by humans? Yes. Climate change is real and human beings contribute. Won’t support a carbon tax or similar efforts that he says will hurt our economy local or globally.

Should Obamacare be overturned? Opposes Obamacare and has voted against it more than 40 times, saying it has made healthcare more expensive and less accessible for Illinois families.

Should federal funds for Planned Parenthood be pulled? No, opposes cutting access for basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources.

Do you support helping young immigrants who grew up here without legal papers (DREAMers) gain U.S. citizenship? Supports legislation to prevent DREAMer deportations and put them on a path to legal citizenship and believes comprehensive immigration reform is key to bringing 525,000 people in Illinois out of the shadows.

Position on Republican presidential calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: Opposes such bans.

Three top legislative priorities for the country: Protect the American people from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad; change the “culture of corruption” in the VA health system; tax less, spend less and encourage economic growth

 

JAMES MARTER

James Marter. From Marter's Facebook Page.

James Marter. From Marter’s Facebook Page.

Does climate change exist and is it caused by humans? Argues there is no specific, concrete evidence that human activity has an impact on the “theory of man-made climate,” and that there’s evidence which shows climate changes occur naturally.

Should Obamacare be overturned? Calls it the “unconstitutional un-Affordable Care Act” and believes it should be eliminated entirely with constitutional and market based reforms enacted instead.

Should federal funds for Planned Parenthood be pulled? Yes. Believes no one should be in favor of giving federal funding to any organization that “takes any part in the taking of an innocent life.”

Do you support helping young immigrants who grew up here without legal papers (DREAMers) gain U.S. citizenship? No. Argues that existing immigration laws provide a lawful path to citizenship and it should be followed by all; calls President Barack Obama’s use of executive powers to prevent deportations illegal.

Position on Republican presidential calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: Believes the U.S. should not allow in any foreign nationals who are associated with terrorist organizations; any nationals from a “terrorist state” or nationals from states that are in treaties or in “alignment” with either terrorist organizations or states.

Three top legislative priorities for the country: Repeal the Affordable Care Act; stop the influx of foreign national immigration both legal and illegal and enforce the law; balance the budget and put in place a plan to pay off the national debt.

 

COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY

DEMOCRATS

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez (center) and her opponents in the March 15 Democratic primary election, Kim Foxx (left) and Donna More, debate before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez (center) and her opponents in the March 15 Democratic primary election, Kim Foxx (left) and Donna More, debate before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

 

COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY ANITA ALVAREZ

Policy on making evidence, such as police dashcam videos public before a suspcect is charged, tried or convicted: Opposes wholesale release of evidence if it could jeopardize the prosecution of a crime, arguing decisions to release evidence to the public must be made on a case-by-case basis.

With prisons becoming overcrowded, should Illinois keep or reverse the trend of longer sentences? Says her office must continue to analyze sentencing laws on a case-by-case basis and ensure that longer sentences are reserved for violent criminals who present a demonstrated threat to public safety.

What will you do to assure that your political supporters and donors don’t have influence in your office? Says she has never been a party insider or a favored candidate of politicians and that her record shows there has been no undue influence by political supporters or donors.

Do you support a proposal to establish a special gun court in Cook County for every illegal gun possession case? Supports the measure if it could enhance the criminal justice system’s handling of gun cases and believes it could play a part in larger reforms to address illegal weapons in the county.

How will you do to address the increasing numbers of shootings and homicides in Chicago? Argues the county must strengthen gun laws and enact more effective gun sentencing structures, while being smarter about how to handle non-violent offenses.

How would you try to shorten the delay between indictment and trial defendants? She’s in a working group she says has helped develop plans such as reducing time between indictment and arraignment through better communication and case management; getting materials from police quicker; eliminating the delay in getting 911 recordings and working to get scientific testing results from forensic labs faster.


KIM FOXX

Policy on making evidence, such as police dashcam videos public before a suspect is charged, tried or convicted: Argues we have a “duty to share information with the public,” and would do so “whenever possible, as long as it respects the integrity of the case.”

With prisons becoming overcrowded, should Illinois keep or reverse the trend of longer sentences? Illinois should take the lead in reversing the trend toward longer sentences, especially for offenders who pose little to no risk to public safety.

What will you do to assure that your political supporters and donors don’t have influence in your office:? Says her donors know what her plans are for reform in the office and if they’re supporting her, it’s because they support that vision.

Do you support a proposal to establish a special gun court in Cook County for every illegal gun possession case? Does not oppose the “idea in principle,” but argues there is no compelling data to suggest gun courts are effective deterrents of gun crime.

How will you address the increasing numbers of shootings and homicides in Chicago? Committed to focusing on gun possession and establishing a unit to address gun trafficking, in addition to focusing on gun shops selling weapons that fit the trafficked standard and finding ways to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

How would you try to shorten the delay between indictment and trial for defendants?: Supports the “rocket docket” created by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans and would expand it to include first-time offenders who have committed crimes of survival and offenders whose prior offenses are more than a decade old.

 

DONNA MORE

Policy on making evidence, such as police dashcam videos public before a suspcect is charged, tried or convicted: For “purposes of transparency,” would release videos as soon as they become public via court proceeding, such as if it’s used for a bond hearing, preliminary hearing or for a trial.

With prisons becoming overcrowded, should Illinois keep or reverse the trend of longer sentences?Opposed to mandatory minimum sentences and calls them ineffective deterrents when it comes to crime.

What will you do to assure that your political supporters and donors don’t have influence in your office? Has personally financed the majority of her campaign and money raised by supporters is mostly in amounts of $1,000 or less. She says she has no political ties and isn’t endorsed by the party.

Do you support a proposal to establish a special gun court in Cook County for every illegal gun possession case? Yes, supports the establishment of a dedicated gun court.

How will you do to address the increasing numbers of shootings and homicides in Chicago? Wants to engage the community in a Cook County Safety Alliance to fight crime; get all 128 police departments to share ideas and come up with action strategies for gun violence reduction; create a dedicated gun court; work on disruption of the market for illegal guns; support assault weapons legislation.

How would you try to shorten the delay between indictment and trial for defendants: Give prosecutors the discretion to charge or dismiss promptly based on evidence and insist that when charges are brought they be “ready for trial” in a reasonable amount of time. Also believes in accelerating use of citations for certain low level non-violent drug possession misdemeanors.

 

COOK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT CLERK

DEMOCRATS

Democratic candidates for Clerk of the Circuit Court, from left, Jacob Meister, Dorothy Brown and Michelle Harris met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Democratic candidates for Clerk of the Circuit Court, from left, Jacob Meister, Dorothy Brown and Michelle Harris met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

 

CIRCUIT COURT CLERK DOROTHY BROWN

How will you get the office up to date when it comes to electronic filing? Calls e-filling one of the biggest accomplishments in her office; says implementation of e-filing on civil cases is about 70 percent done and she’ll continue to promote and expand electronic record services for traffic cases as well as expanding the automation of the transfer of traffic-stop citations from squad cars directly to the clerk’s office.

In some counties, the clerk is an employee of the chief judge’s office and not elected. Would you support such a system in Cook County? Says the clerk should remain an independent, elected official who isn’t accountable to anyone but the people.

What will you do to reassure taxpayers that patronage hiring and firing will not take place in the future? Says she doesn’t support patronage in hiring and promoting public employees and that under her administration, her office strictly adheres to the Shakman for both union hiring and promotions and hired based on qualifications for management.

 

ALD. MICHELLE HARRIS

How will you get the office up to date when it comes to electronic filing? Says a “profound failure of leadership, lack of vision and rank incompetence” have left the office with a “mishmash” of record keeping systems. Would assemble a group of IT experts and court system stakeholders to help construct a modernization plan and budget.

In some counties, the clerk is an employee of the chief judge’s office and not elected. Would you support such a system in Cook County? Willing to consider and potentially endorse any “well-thought-out proposal” that would save taxpayers money and improve the efficiency of the county’s courts.

What will you do to reassure taxpayers that patronage hiring and firing will not take place in the future? Says hiring will be primarily based on qualifications; is prepared to post the names and resumes of all office hires on the clerk’s website.

 

JACOB MEISTER

How will you get the office up to date when it comes to electronic filing? Calls current state of the clerk’s office “inexcusable” and says e-filing is not universally available. Would request additional appropriations for capital investment in computer systems and related technology to modernize the office.

In some counties, the clerk is an employee of the chief judge’s office and not elected. Would you support such a system in Cook County? Would seriously consider supporting legislation in Springfield that calls for the clerk to be appointed for a term of either four or six years by the circuit judges, provided the clerk is able to maintain a degree of autonomy to preserve the checks and balances envisioned in the Illinois Constitution.

What will you do to reassure taxpayers that patronage hiring and firing will not take place in the future? Would prohibit employees from doing political work on county time, institute protocols to monitor behavior and aggressively discipline employees that violate policies.

 

22ND STATE REPRESENTATIVE

DEMOCRATS

JASON GONZALES

Jason Gonzales, who is challenging House Speaker Michael Madigan in the 2016 Democratic primary, fundraises in his Southwest Side office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jason Gonzales, who is challenging House Speaker Michael Madigan in the 2016 Democratic primary, fundraises in his Southwest Side office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Do you favor the state picking up the pension costs for Chicago teachers? Do you favor school districts outside Chicago picking up their own pension costs? Every promise the government made in terms of pensions should be upheld and any attempt would be unconstitutional and “immoral.” The state can pay off debt by a combination of new revenue, having the “well-off’ pay more, criminal justice reform and spending cuts.

Do you support an increased gas tax and/or other taxes and fees to finance infrastructure improvements, including public transit? A casino would help communities that have been left without jobs and economic development. Also believes a millionaire tax on non-business owners, LaSalle Street Tax and reforming criminal justice will help finance infrastructure costs.

 Do you support tighter gun background check laws and limiting straw gun purchases? Calls instituting background checks a “sensible, first step” in preventing mass murders and violent killings; supports limiting straw gun purchases.

Do you support or oppose legislation to promote the transparency and preservation of police disciplinary records? Supports it, saying there should be transparency in records so the police can be held accountable.

What revenue options would you support in a budget package, if any? Supports a combination of selectively increasing taxes on those who can afford it, creating new ways to generate revenue and cutting spending in certain areas that can be reformed without hurting “regular people.” Supports a 3 percent tax increase on income over $1 million for non-employers and a small tax for buyers and sellers at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

 

HOUSE SPEAKER MICHAEL MADIGAN

Did not submit answers to the Sun-Times questionnaire and declined to independently provide answers.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Springfield in July. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Springfield in July. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

 

5TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

DEMOCRATS

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, left, and challenger Juliana Stratton. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, left, and challenger Juliana Stratton. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

JULIANA STRATTON

Do you favor the state picking up the pension costs for Chicago teachers? Do you favor school districts outside Chicago picking up their own pension costs? Picking up the cost of Chicago teachers might work well in coordination with new streams of revenue. Doesn’t support shifting pensions costs onto local property taxpayers.

Do you support an increased gas tax and/or other taxes and fees to finance infrastructure improvements, including public transit: Supports a shift to an annual infrastructure improvement plan to allow the state to plan projects and help avoid expensive, large scale emergency projects; open to finding ways to fund the program, but suggess one option is to ensure the extremely wealthy are paying their “fair share.”

 Do you support tighter gun background check laws and limiting straw gun purchases? Wants to stop the flow of weapons into our neighborhoods, arguing tighter background checks and bringing an end to straw gun purchases will go a “long way” to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

Do you support or oppose legislation to promote the transparency and preservation of police disciplinary records? Supports it, and believes police officers who have betrayed our trust and violated the law should be held accountable for their actions.

What revenue options would you support in a budget package, if any? Open to other forms of revenue to avoid making cuts to services such as education, health care and vital services for seniors. A millionaire’s tax would provide revenue directly to the education system. Ideas such as shifting to a progressive income tax structure can help increase revenue and ensure the burden isn’t placed on struggling middle class families.

 

STATE REP. KEN DUNKIN

Did not submit answers to the Sun-Times questionnaire and declined to independently provide answers.