On Jan. 30, Becky Anderson Wilkins appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic seat in the 6th Congressional Districtof Illinois in the March 2018 primary:I’m Becky Anderson Wilkins and I’m the owner of Anderson Bookshops. You may have heard of my business, we’re out in the western suburbs of Chicago. I’m currently on the Naperville City Council but I’ve been a community activist for years in my community — especially using books as bridges for ideas to a lot of different demographics within my community.
You know what, I think the biggest cause for me is healthcare. I think as a breast cancer survivor I’ve seen what’s happening in destroying so much of what healthcare is for people. You know the way I am going to fight for it is we have to consider healthcare a right and not a privilege and the attacks of ACA. So what we really need to do is fight for that healthcare so people and families and women and their family planning have the coverage they need.
So we need to move forward and make sure the attacks stop by Republicans. And I think, also for the 6th Congressional District, I think the tax plan is a huge issue. Knowing that 83 percent of those breaks are going to the corporations and the top 1 percent, and it’s not serving those as middle class, as many of the customers are in my store, those are middle class families and this will not benefit them nor will it benefit anyone who is trying to reach the middle class. So I think those top priorities — healthcare and the tax reform that went through both houses — we need to fix that.
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. Becky Anderson Wilkins 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: The most important issue to me and so many others in our community is health care – it affects each and every one of us intimately and personally. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and because I was fortunate to have access to the health professionals and treatment options I needed, I remain in remission today. I believe that health care is a right and that health care should be three things: affordable, accessible, and high quality. The next step for Washington towards those ideals is to implement a Medicare buy-in option.
I am also a strong advocate for reeling in the skyrocketing prescription drug prices. Growing up, I worked the register at our family drug store and saw first-hand how copays could put doctor-prescribed medications financially out of reach for too many families and seniors. It has only gotten worse. That’s why I will advocate for Medicare to have the power to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Becky Anderson Wilkins
District running for: 6th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: Naperville City Councilor; Founder of IndieBound Naperville; Co-Founder of Naperville Reads and Andrea’s Angels
Occupation: Co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops and Anderson’s Bookfair Company; Naperville City Councilor
Education: North Central College
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: Like people all across the country, people in the Sixth District are worried about our kids, our health, and our world. There are steps Congress can take to ease some of those concerns.
First, Congress can play a more active role in ensuring access to high quality education for all of our kids regardless of economic background. From Pre-K right through higher education, there’s more to be done. Too many of our kids are saddled with debt for half of their lives to receive the degree of their choice. We have to make state colleges and universities more affordable, if not tuition free. We also have to do a better job of recognizing alternatives to a four-year degree.
As stated above, we have got to get a handle on prescription drug prices. One way to do this is to allow the government to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs just like the way drug companies negotiate with the Veterans Administration, so that they become more affordable for consumers but do not discourage the development of new breakthrough medication.
Finally, we need to invest in clean energy infrastructure to reduce our carbon footprint, to employ skilled labor in jobs of the future, and to bring much-needed repair and modernization to our current system. The Pentagon has called climate change and cyber-attacks on our power grid national security concerns. This is a way we can upgrade and secure our aging power grid while doing our part to combat climate change and protect this one world we’ve got. That’s common sense to me.
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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?
Regardless of which party controls the House after the 2018 midterms, I plan to bring open and honest conversation to my office. It’s easy to say that I’ll work with Republicans if they’re in control, but I truly believe we need more open-mindedness and teamwork across the board. The climate has gotten far too divisive, cynical, and intolerant because politics is not about governance anymore, it’s about who is holding the power. Let’s find out what we have in common, and what we agree on so we can work towards compromise.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION:What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: I believe that Donald Trump was unfit and ill-prepared to become President, and, based on the results of the popular vote, a majority of Americans agree with me. Nevertheless, he was elected through the system set up by our founding fathers. I believe that his administration has done lasting damage to the United States’ leadership position on the global stage.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: There are outcomes of the Trump presidency that give me hope. They include:
More people are taking seriously their role and responsibility as a citizen in this great democracy. From the millions strong Women’s March to the steady force of organizations like Indivisible and MoveOn, people are making their voices heard like never before and it’s making a difference.
More people are running for office, especially those of us who were underrepresented previously. From Danica Roem in Virginia to Wilmot Collins in Montana, we’ve taken huge strides towards a more inclusive, more representative democracy.
People are starting to read the news again. Newspaper subscriptions are on the rise and it’s no surprise why. From glimpsing inside a chaotic White House to unearthing Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct, investigative reporting coming from traditional print sources this past year has been groundbreaking.
I strongly oppose the following actions of Trump administration:
The undermining of the Affordable Care Act through attempted repeal and ultimately sabotage. Health care is a right and President Trump is playing political games with peoples’ lives.
The elimination of protections for Dreamers. The Trump Administration forced uncertainty on nearly 1 million kids and young adults who contribute to our economy and serve our country.
The Republican’s disastrous tax bill. Despite being the Administration’s primary legislative accomplishment, it’s unfathomable to celebrate a bill that is projected to result in most Americans paying more taxes, add nearly $1.5 trillion to the national deficit, and push 13 million Americans off of their health insurance plans, all to give more money and power to corporations and the richest few.
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: Robert Mueller should have all of the time and resources necessary to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s reach of influence in the 2016 election. This is not a partisan issue. We should all be interested in the findings of this investigation and in learning ways we can safeguard our electoral system from outside influence in future elections.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Here at home, we have to ensure that our first responders and law enforcement agencies have the recourses and coordination channels necessary to disrupt potential attacks. We as a community also need to better understand situations where individuals can be isolated and radicalized and work to stop it.
Congress should also mandate universal background checks on gun sales and close the gun show loophole. It is unfathomable that people living in the United States who are identified by the FBI as terrorist sympathizers and are placed on the TSA No-Fly list can legally purchase deadly and high-capacity firearms.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: As stated above, Congress needs to pass a law that mandates universal background checks and closes the gun show loophole. Universal background checks are a commonsense step that most Americans agree with, but the NRA’s hold on congress blocks that progress. This is another example of how my commitment to not take a single penny from special interests frees me to vote on behalf of my constituents.
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: Gun violence is a crisis in our country and we need to treat it like a crisis. I support a law banning the sale and use of ‘bump stocks’, and I support a universal background check system that would close the gun show loophole and prevent those involved in domestic abuse from purchasing a gun. I also believe that there are commonsense steps that we can take like reinstating the assault weapons ban and limiting high-capacity magazines.
As a member of the Naperville City Council, I stood up to the NRA and introduced a gun turn in program. In Congress, I will continue to stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby because we can protect the 2nd Amendment while also preventing senseless gun violence in our communities.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
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: I firmly agree with this assessment. The Republican tax plan is a handout to the rich and powerful at the expense of the middle class and those working hard to get there. I am a strong advocate for a progressive tax code, one in which everyone pays their fair share. The ladder of economic opportunity is missing a few rungs right now, and that’s just one way we can level the playing field.
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: Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem at this time, in the absence of a larger meaningful peace process, is not helpful to the long-term goal of a two-state solution with an independent, Jewish, and Democratic Israeli state. Nearly every other global power, including our allies, urged President Trump not to move the embassy citing the increased likelihood of violence. President Trump’s decision undercut the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation process, increased tensions in an already hostile region, and further isolated the United States in its dilapidating leadership position on the world stage.
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: I would be concerned about a preemptive military action by the United States, especially one in which the President did not first seek approval from Congress. Should we end up in a military conflict, we have to support and protect our allies South Korea and Japan. We also must keep strong diplomatic ties with China throughout and ensure that they do not support North Korea militarily or financially. I do not believe that all diplomatic options have been exhausted, including high-level negotiations.
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 strongly oppose the Trump administration’s discriminatory travel ban.
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 – immigrants are the American way of life. In addition to Native Americans, the United States was founded and grown into a world power by immigrants. So long as high standards remain in place for our immigration and refugee intake programs, we must always be accepting.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: The wall should not be built. It is more a symbol of a closed-off society than an effective border control measure, and it’s certainly not a cost-efficient method to secure our southern border.
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: I oppose any measures that undermine the stability of the health insurance marketplace. The Republican tax scam did just that. The non-partisan CBO estimates that 13 million people will lose their coverage – 525,000 right here in Illinois. On top of that, insurance premiums are expected to rise 10%. While I don’t believe the repeal of the individual mandate makes the ACA fundamentally less viable, it does make health care less affordable and less accessible.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: The biggest difference you will find is that while many of us in the Democratic field have similar ideas, I am the only candidate who has a proven track record of bringing those ideas to fruition. When we talk about creating good jobs with critical benefits like health care, I’ve done it. When we talk about supporting our schools and fostering educational opportunities in our community, I co-founded Naperville Reads and Andrea’s Angels to do just that. I built an independent business alliance to support and celebrate local businesses to keep dollars in our community and because nearly all new jobs come from small business and startups, not corporations. I took on the NRA on the Naperville City Council. I have committed to not take a single penny from special interests, so you know that when I get to Washington the only interests that matter to me are those of my constituents. I also have a record of fighting for Fair Housing in Naperville and working to make a Welcoming City Proclamation. When it comes to my values, you don’t have to just take my word for it. I’ve spent my entire life building a community around them.