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 district of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Matt Brolley and I’m running for Congress in the 14th Congressional District against Randy Hultgren. I’m a civil engineer and the mayor of Montgomery. I grew up in Boulder Hill, my parents, my dad was a bus driver and brick layer until he got a job in insurance. My mom went to school at night to get her teaching degree and they made a promise with me, they worked jobs, all the jobs they needed to work to pay the bills that we had. They made a promise to even pay for my college education as long as I’d paid for my kids. And Rosa and I, my wife, are terrified at the thought of paying for our kid’s college.
Everybody is well aware that Washington is broke and needs to be fixed especially for the middle class. And so, that’s what I am going to fight for because that’s where I came from. Again, middle class. Raising wages and doing what we can do to cut taxes for the middle class and reducing your health insurance costs. Because when the middle class is thriving our economy and the United States is thriving.
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. Matthew Brolley 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: As a member of Congress, I will have three issue priority areas: health care, job creation, and getting big money out of politics. The next Congress needs to build a healthcare system beyond Obamacare that covers more people and reduces the fiscal burden our current healthcare system puts on individuals. We’ll also have to prioritize job creation, but not just jobs that lower the employment rate. We want to create meaningful jobs that gainfully employ and pay well. Finally, getting big money out of politics. We imagine our candidates for office spend most their time meeting with and speaking to voters. In fact, a lot of time is spend raising money just to start running for office. If we’re going to keep our republic, we have to return democratic power to the people from wealthy oligarchs.
Running for: 14th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: Currently in 2nd term Mayor of Montgomery, IL
Elected Village Board member in Montgomery, IL (2011-2013)
Chairman of Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals in Montgomery, IL
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Education: Bachelors Degrees in Civil Engineering (UIC) and Physics (North Central College)
Campaign website: Brolley4Congress.com
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 14th district needs a congressman who will be focused on securing new jobs, more take home pay, and better schools for the district. Like the rest of the country, one of the biggest issues facing the 14th district is jobs. Many of the manufacturing jobs middle class families relied on for generations are being lost to outsourcing and automation. This happened in Montgomery last year when Caterpillar announced they are leaving our town.
As mayor, I’ve started work with other local business and government leaders to bring new, well-paying, and sustainable jobs to town. Industries like the renewable energy industry show a lot of promise. I’ve done what I can in Montgomery to encourage investment in green energy by changing zoning laws that make it easier for our residents to install solar panels and windmills on their property to power their homes. By paving the way to the future of the American economy and also working to lower healthcare costs, it is my mission to enact policies that leave families with more money at the end of each month. This is money that can be invested back into the economy, used to start a college fund for their children, or saved for retirement.
To ensure our children have these opportunities and more, I also plan on being a dedicated federal partner to our local schools. Residents can count on me to be an advocate for public schools and secure the funding necessary to guarantee a quality public education for every child in the 14th district.
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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: If the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections and I win, I’ll continue to work on my initiatives through consensus building. As Mayor of Montgomery, I have to work with Republicans everyday on behalf of our residents. Just because we disagree on some issues doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t work on other solutions we agree on, like funding infrastructure projects or ending the opioid epidemic.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: President Trump was unqualified, unfit, and unable to be president in November 2016 and everyday since he’s proven that that is still true.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: While I consider myself to be a consensus-builder, there’s just very little that I agree with the President on. Even on traditionally issues like infrastructure, he’s found ways to divide our country and pit neighbor against neighbor. I am still hopeful that he and the Republican Congress will find a way to properly serve the American people, but I’ve seen little to nothing that I support.
What leaves me most concerned are President Trump and Republicans’ legislative efforts on health care, the President’s hatred and bigotry, and his unending attacks on treasured American institutions. If the President and Republicans are trying to insure more Americans, they have a funny way of showing it.
Trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no meaningful replacement and then hiding the individual mandate repeal in a complicated and unpopular tax bill is shameful.
I’m increasingly disgusted by the platform President Trump has given white supremacists by giving them jobs in the White House and rhetorical support from the Oval Office. Nazis are not “fine people” and it doesn’t get better among the KKK.
Policy imitates rhetoric when the President abandons the thousands of American DREAMers who have made lives here and threatens deportation.
Finally, the President and his White House’s endless lies and attacks on our democratic institutions horrify me. We have this republic only so long as we can keep it. If we don’t do something to stop the President from denigrating the truth, the independent press, and the rule of law, I believe we could lose the very freedom that makes America a special country.
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: Bob Mueller is a well-respected and honorable man. He must be allowed to continue his investigation, wherever it leads. Any attempt to undermine him and his work is nothing else but an assault on the rule of law.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: The Obama Administration went a long way in cracking down on financial transactions and kept pressure on terrorists abroad, namely by bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. In Congress, I would continue this work by supporting similar policies. I would only add that we do more in the way to fund public diplomacy at the State Department. These programs build relationships between our next generation of leaders worldwide and go a long way in winning hearts and minds.
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 single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence is enacting universal background checks. Such a policy is supported by the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party, ideology, or gun ownership. Far too many of our neighbors are needlessly dying entirely preventable mass shootings.
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: Yes, I do favor a law banning the sale and use of bump stocks. Bump stocks aren’t used for hunting, the rapid fire scares away prey. But bump stocks have been used to kill many people at once. They should be banned by law. The most impactful policies we can enact to save lives are universal background checks on gun purchases and closing the gun show loophole. I’m not asking for guns to be taken away, but I am asking that we do a better job at protecting our neighbors from needlessly falling victim to preventable shootings by keeping guns out of dangerous hands.
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: You’re not wrong and the historic wealth inequality we’re seeing troubles me, too. For the better part of the last half century, working families haven’t seen wage growth. Despite this stagnation, Congress is only looking out for the richest among us by passing a tax bill that will expand this chasm between the richest and the rest. As we get closer and closer to wealth inequality levels such as those experienced just before the Great Depression, I worry. Congress should have passed a tax bill that focuses its cuts on the middle class and working families. Trickle-down economics hasn’t worked yet and I’m not counting on it to work now.
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: No, I don’t support President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. I believe the United States, acting as an honest broker, has the best chance to negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. This decision ruins our reputation as an honest broker and doesn’t move us any closer to peace.
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: Every military leader I’ve heard says the same thing: there are no good options for North Korea. Military options not only puts American soldiers into harm’s way, but also threatens the lives of millions of South Koreans living near the demilitarized zone. If we’re going to solve this nuclear crisis without massive loss of life, we need to be working with our allies to negotiate nuclear weaponry away from North Korea.
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: The Muslim ban was wrong when it was haphazardly ordered and it’s still wrong now. The President said he wanted a six month ban to reassess our security measures as it relates to these countries. We’re now close to a year since the first ban was ordered, where is the reassessment?
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: There isn’t doubt or debate about whether or not we need to ensure our borders are secure and that visa programs don’t displace our workforce. We all need to make sure employers aren’t taking advantage of undocumented workers. But, more importantly, our country is built on the premise of being welcoming to those who want to build a better life. America is stronger and safer when we live up to our best ideals. If we build a country where immigrants came come and find a better life, it will make all our lives better.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: Absolutely not. Building a wall won’t stop any of our border problems, but it will waste over $20 billion.
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: The individual mandate is what helped keep insurance pools healthier and younger. By repealing the mandate, Americans can expect to see even higher premium costs at their doctor’s office. Worse, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million Americans will lose their insurance altogether. This was a spiteful trick to undermine Obamacare by Republicans for purely political reasons. To fix this, the next Democratic Congress needs to strengthen and secure Obamacare and build beyond its successes.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I’m an engineer by training. It is my job to build and fix things, and that’s also how I’ve lead as Mayor of Montgomery. In Montgomery, we cut property taxes, invested in our infrastructure, and public safety. I have a proven record of working with people on all ends of the political spectrum to deliver positive change for my town. That’s the significant difference.
I want to go to Washington to try and fix the problems that exist in the 14th district and across our country. Today the 14th district is represented by Randy Hultgren who seemingly only cares about tearing things down. He voted for a devastating healthcare bill that would’ve taken 37,000 of his own constituents’ health insurance. He’s voted to turn Medicare into a voucher system. He was even part of the unnecessary and disastrous government shutdown in 2013.
The 14th district is not a do-nothing district. It’s residents aren’t people who see a problem and do their best to make it worse. We solve problems in the 14th district and I hope to represent that mentality in Washington.