Democratic incumbent Robin Kelly is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 2nd Congressional District race.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Illinois’s 2nd Congressional District a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their district and the country. Democratic nominee Robin Kelly submitted the following answers to our questionnaire.
As a member of the U.S. House, what are or would be your top cause or causes?
- Making health care more affordable for vulnerable communities, seniors and working families. Zip code, age, race or gender should never determine your health outcomes in America, but tragically, they do;
- Promotion of legislation that promotes comprehensive job creation via strategic investments in young people, mature workers, education, manufacturing and the digital sector, thereby empowering all families to live the “American Dream.”
- Passing federal background check legislation to reduce gun violence locally and nationally, as well as closing loopholes that allow guns to get into the wrong hands.
Please list three highly specific needs of your district that you would make priorities.
- Creating new jobs, repurposing workers for existing new jobs in the STEM disciplines and attracting business to the Second District (Illinois ranks 47th nationally in unemployment at 5.0%);
- Working to finalize the construction of South Suburban Airport, which is not only sorely needed in the Chicago metropolitan area but would be a huge economic boost to the South Suburban region;
- Increasing access to quality health care, especially mental health.
Bipartisanship is virtually non-existent in the House. What would you do about that?
Kelly: I am profoundly disappointed by my Republican colleagues who are reluctant to stand their ground and decry certain actions of the Administration, lest it place them in disfavor with an openly spiteful President. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that bi-partisanship is completely non-existent.
As someone who has successfully moved bills out of the House with support from my Republican colleagues, I do not believe that all efforts at bi-partisanship are fruitless.However, my colleagues must reject the notion that somehow, bi-partisanship means abandoning their core philosophies and adopting those of the minority. It means the two parties try to find common ground around the edges. There are a host of issues on which the American public, through polls, has indicated that they are more willing than their elected representatives to find common ground. It is that commonality that we, as lawmakers, much seize and mobilize to achieve change.
Who is Robin Kelly?
Her political/civic background:
- US Congresswoman (D-2)
- Chief Administrative Officer – Cook County
- Chief of Staff – Office of the State Treasurer
- Illinois State Rep. – 38th Legislative District
Her occupation: US Congresswoman
- BA – Psychology
- MA – Counseling (Bradley University)
- PhD – Political Science (Northern Illinois University)
Her campaign website: RobinKellyforCongress.org
Twitter handle: @reprobinkelly
Recent news: Robin Kelly
Are you convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump? Please explain.
Kelly: Yes. And you don’t have to look any further than right here at home to see the effects. In the summer of 2016, the FBI disclosed that an Illinois online voter registration database had been successfully breached by Russia. Russian-backed hackers accessed more than 80,000 voter files and certainly some of these voters are my constituents. In July 2017, Congress overwhelmingly passed strong sanctions against Russia, in part because of these state-level attacks. Just five members of Congress out of 522 voted against these sanctions. There is incontrovertible evidence that Russia meddled. Our Intelligence services have acknowledged this truth. This Congress has acknowledged this truth. And President Trump knows the truth.
Do you support the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller? Please explain.
Kelly: I do, and nearly two-thirds of Americans support Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. If our democratic elections are under attack by foreign actors like Russia, and if there is a possibility that domestic actors had knowledge of these attacks and colluded in orchestrating them. Then the American people need to be made aware of this threat, and our intelligence community, Congress, and Justice Department need to work to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Special Counsel Mueller is doing our Democracy a great service in examining this concern in an independent, professional, and fair manner.
If President Trump were to fire Mueller, directly or indirectly, what should Congress do?
Kelly: The President isn’t above the law. This President, and the Republican leadership in Congress need to adhere to the oath they made and do their job and make clear that special counsel Mueller will be permitted to finish his work free from political interference. The special counsel has achieved indictments against three companies and 25 individuals, including 12 intelligence officers, on charges of hacking or otherwise interfering with the 2016 election. His firing would be a direct and intentional interference preventing us from a true understanding of the scope of Russian interference in our elections. The President would be truly crossing a line with respect to transparency and defending our Democracy.
If Trump were to pardon his former campaign aide Paul Manafort, what should Congress do?
Kelly: President Trump pardoning Mr. Manafort or interfering in the investigation of his campaign would be a tremendous abuse of power deserving of immediate action by Congress.
Which three actions taken so far by the Trump administration do you most strongly support?
Kelly: I cannot, in good conscience, identify any actions taken recently that I would support. The Administration has acted erratically and irresponsibly, and not made significant decisions for the good of the American people as a whole.
Which three actions taken by the Trump administration do you most strongly disagree with?
Kelly: While there are certainly more than three, I will begin accordingly:
- Continuous attacks to undermine American healthcare and dismantle the Affordable Care Act
- Pursuing a border policy that allowed for the cruel and tragic separations of families
- Systematic roll backs of critical climate change agreements and EPA regulations and protections. Climate change is one of the greatest global and national security threats we face.
The Trump administration has taken action to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution. The administration has done so in the name of supporting business growth and making the United States more energy self-sufficient. Most notably, the administration has begun to dismantle Obama’s federal rules over American coal plants, weakened automobile fuel-economy standards and ended American participation in the Paris climate agreement. What is your take on all this?
Kelly: There is nearly uniform agreement within the scientific community that climate change is real. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concur that climate change is indeed occurring and is almost certainly due to human activity. To the extent that our nation has taken affirmative steps to mitigate the impact of climate change, the current Administration’s dismantling of Obama-era policies is both reckless and irresponsible. It is shameful that the President seeks only to pander to the fossil-fuel industry purely to curry political favor and secure his base, with no concern about long-term effects on our environment or our citizens.
To what extent is climate change a man-made phenomenon? How serious is the threat to our children’s future? What should be done?
Kelly: The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere-primarily carbon dioxide. There are other human activities, such as agriculture and deforestation, that contribute to the proliferation of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. But armed with this knowledge, there is much that we can do to appreciably reduce our carbon footprint and make a conscience effort to preserve our planet for our children, and future generations.
What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence?
Kelly: Passing a background check bill, like the bipartisan King-Thompson background check bill. The King-Thompson legislation would require background checks on all commercial gun sales, such as those made at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. It also would permit the government to create a federal gun registry.
Is the media the “enemy of the people”? Please explain.
Kelly: No, I do not believe that the media is the “enemy of the people.” To the contrary, there is a pressing need to protect and promote a free press. To that end, however, I believe that reporters have a moral obligation to report as objectively and neutrally as possible. I believe that reporters should avoid sensationalism when reporting on our nation’s most salient issues. And perhaps most importantly, I believe that the media must steadfastly combat mistruths and conjecture and instead, provide American citizens with a balance of facts from which each individual may draw his or her own conclusions.
As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation pushed through Congress last December 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 the ‘silent hand’ of the market does not seem to be rewarding merit fairly. What’s your position on last December’s rewrite of the tax code? Would you push for further changes, or for the law’s repeal?
Kelly: The growing income and wealth gap is extremely troubling. As America’s middle class and vulnerable communities flail, President Trump and House Republicans have championed tax breaks for corporate America that are vast and permanent, while our children are left paying the price. The Republican tax plan is bleeding our middle class dry and exploding the national debt. This only serves to pads the pockets of corporate America and the wealthiest one percent.
Speaking of income inequality, top executives of America’s biggest companies saw their average annual pay surge to $18.9 million in 2017, even as the pay of ordinary workers has remained flat for a decade. What, if anything, should be done to address the growing gap in wealth and income?
Kelly: Addressing the growing wealth and income gap in the U.S. is a moral imperative. No full-time American worker should have to live on the precipice of poverty, nor should any family be forced to live from paycheck to paycheck. Yet wage growth remains slow and uneven, with African-Americans and women still at a clear disadvantage while the wealthiest are accumulating more money than ever. Median real wages grew only 0.2 percent over the past year, according to a report released by the Economic Policy Institute.
Wages for African-Americans declined in most wage brackets, while women with graduate degrees made less money than men with only college degrees. By contrast, those in the 95th wage percentile saw an average pay hike of 1.5 percent over the past year. And in another recently released report looking at the first 225 companies in the Fortune 500 to disclose their pay gaps found the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio among these firms was 339 to one. Not only is that profoundly unfair, it stands in diametric opposition to the fair shake values ingrained in the principle of the American Dream. It is crucial that policymakers act to boost the pay of American workers nationally and ensure that prosperity is broadly shared.
Would it be appropriate at this time for President Trump to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House? Why so, or why not?
Kelly: No, it would not. Notwithstanding the incontrovertible proof of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, little has been done to hold Russia or President Putin accountable. Inviting him to the White House would serve as little more than a wink and a nod to his misdeeds and an affront to the American populace.
How would you assess and grade the Trump administration’s efforts to recalibrate our nation’s relationships with Korea, NATO and Russia?
Kelly: I would characterize his efforts as impulsive, misguided and uninformed. The President has yet to demonstrate a true understanding of the complexity of the myriad issues we are facing with respect to Korea, NATO and Russia.
In late June, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban on visitors and immigrants from seven countries, five of which have Muslim majorities. What is your view on this ban?
Kelly: I am profoundly disappointed that we have not fully internalized the lessons we should have learned from Korematsu. The court’s travel ban decision provides new political ammunition for the President and members of his party as they prepare to face the voters in the fall. The President has been unequivocal in his plans to use anti-immigrant messaging as he campaigns for Republicans, much the way he successfully deployed the issue to whip up the base of the party during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sadly, the effects of the ban are already being felt. Since its passage, fewer visas have been issued to people from the targeted countries, and the number of refugees has fallen to a historical low.
What three major reforms should be made to United States immigration policy?
Kelly: First and foremost, I believe in comprehensive immigration reform, but reform that includes a clearly articulated pathway to full and equal citizenship, fixing the extensive family visa backlog while still protecting our borders and national security. Second, I support the all efforts to protect DREAMers, who, by no fault of their own, find themselves in an unconscionable legal limbo as they seek to educate themselves and live out the American dream. Third, I completely oppose the separation of families, and would push to end family detention and close private immigration detention centers.
Do you support or oppose the family-based immigration policy sometimes called “chain migration”? Please explain.
Kelly: I wholeheartedly support family-based immigration policy, however, I reject the term “chain migration,” as it has very xenophobic, racist connotations. When Congress passed the 1965 law, it did not anticipate that large numbers of non-Europeans would use its family reunification provisions. Before the 1965, nearly half of all immigrants came from six European countries. But most post-1965 immigration has come from nonwhite countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The term “chain migration” is a rallying cry to those who are alarmed by our countries increasing racial diversity and who feel that said diversity threatens the “character” of America. The process for family members to come to the United States is a s lengthy and rigorous as any other. But family-based immigration allows immigrants to enter a country with a more fully formed support network and community, which can make their transition much smoother.
What would you do, as a member of Congress, to improve race relations in the United States?
Kelly: Since joining Congress over five years ago, I have always sought to promote and celebrate diversity. My Diversity Dinners, for example, was a way for my colleagues of different racial, ethnic backgrounds (as well as those across the aisle) to seek out a neutral space where we could break bread while finding common ground. I strongly believe, however, that we have a long way to achieving true racial equality. We must no longer deny racial inequity and instead, push towards solutions that take into account our history of racial subjugation and that promote true equality.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
Kelly: Simply put, I have amassed a lengthy record of service as an active and engaged Member of Congress for over five years. That record is on top of my decades-long commitment to public service prior to entering Congress, including my time as a member of the Illinois General Assembly. I have and continue tU.S. House candidate Tom Hanson: Who he is, why he’s running, his positionso work assiduously to represent each and every constituent from every corner of this District.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.