On Jan. 30, Amanda Howland appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic seat in the 6th Congressional District of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name’s Amanda Howland and I’m running for the 6th Congressional District. I’m an elected trustee of the College of Lake County. I’ve been board chairman there for two years. I’m in my ninth year. I was elected countywide twice. I’ve also worked on a number of campaigns, including the Carrie Edwards campaign when I was an election protection attorney, and I went to Toledo and monitored the polls. Saw some things there that were very upsetting, which is why I got involved in politics, because I saw what was going on and voter disenfranchisement.
I have several causes. Obviously, education is extremely important to me because I am a trustee and a former educator and a former school principal. Making sure that we have a good quality education for all students has always been my goal. I’m also a cancer survivor. I had kidney cancer in 2016 and I’m extremely passionate about making sure we have healthcare for all. Especially moving toward a Medicare for all system. A single payer system.
We’ve got so many needs in our district. This tax bill is going to hurt us immensely because we are one of the highest tax districts in the country and it’s going to hurt all of our small businesses plus all our individuals and our non-for-profits, especially because we don’t have those tax breaks anymore with the write-offs. The other thing that is a specific need in our district is that there really isn’t any representation. Our current legislator is not available. He doesn’t answer questions. He won’t hold town halls and he’s not out there in public finding out what the pulse of the district is and what our real needs are. So we need someone who will represent us.
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. Amanda Howland 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: Healthcare and education reform are my two biggest priorities. Single payer healthcare and free public education for kindergarten through the first two years of community college or technical school would transform our nation. My uncle, Dr. Quentin Young, founder of Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan and personal doctor to the Obama family, instilled in me the importance of healthcare for all. My career in education taught me that there is no stronger force for change than an educated populace. I’ll fight tirelessly to make sure that all Americans have access to quality public healthcare and education.
District running for: 6th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: Elected Trustee, College of Lake County, 2008 to present; Elected Board Chairman 2013-2015; Committee Person, Ela Township Precinct 84, 2011 to present; Committee Person Ela 83 2006-2011;; appointed member, Illinois State Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Council, 2004 to present; gymnastics judge for Illinois Special Olympics State Meet, 2000 to present; IHSA gymnastics judge, 37 years to date; Member, Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, 2006 to present; appointed Board Member, 2017; Lake County Court Appointed Special Advocate, 2008 to present; Member, Caring Women’s Connection (a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping women and children in Lake County), 2000 to present.
Occupation: Civil rights attorney, former educator and elementary school principal
Education: B.S. in Special Education, Central Michigan; M.A. in Psychology Michigan State; M.S. in Educational Administration Northern Illinois; Doctor of Jurisprudence, Chicago-Kent College of Law
Campaign website: amanda2018.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: Holding town halls and meeting with constituents is a top priority. For years, Peter Roskam has refused to hold town halls and meet with constituents. This happens both in Illinois and in Washington. For example, every year the College of Lake County sends its President and several Board Members to the National Legislative Summit where we have appointments to meet with our legislators. For the past 8 years, Peter Roskam has not attending our pre-arranged meetings. Instead, he sends a junior staff person to meet with us. Roskam is the only Illinois legislator that we have never spoken with, even though he is one of three representatives that has constituents in Lake County.
I would push for a repeal of the SALT deduction that passed with the current tax bill. According to Slate, of the 30 housing markets that would be most hurt by the new Republican tax plan, three are in the Sixth Congressional District – Lake, McHenry and DuPage. Further, six of the 30 hardest hit housing markets are in Illinois. Peter Roskam authored this bill with no regard for the Sixth Congressional District and the damage must be reversed.
The Trump administration cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from the 2018 budget. Community activists got the funding restored, however, with budget cuts to the EPA, I know that we must remain vigilant to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected.
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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: My legal training and my experience at the College of Lake County require me to negotiate with people all the time. For example, Lake County is known to be a Republican stronghold, yet at the College, we have invested in projects and programs that are more progressive than conservative. During my tenure on the Board, we have invested in geothermal HVAC, solar panels, green roofs and LEEDs certified buildings. My ability to work with people was recognized when my fellow Trustees voted me Chairman of the Board twice.
In my law practice, I spend the majority of time mediating issues and have completed over sixty hours of mediation training. I prefer to bring people together to work out differences rather that work as adversaries against each other.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: Setting politics aside, I’m very concerned about President Trump’s tweeting. He has often used Twitter to create international problems such as his tweet at the Mayor of London following a terrorist attack and his recent threatening tweets at Kim Jong-Un. Trump’s use of Twitter damages our reputation worldwide.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: SUPPORT: I support President Trump’s July 2017 Executive Order on expanding apprenticeships in the United States. I have vehemently disagreed with nearly every decision this administration has made, but I do applaud the recognition of apprenticeships as tool to promote a skilled workforce and grow the economy.
OPPOSE: The Trump administration’s roll back of EPA regulations is very foolish. It took many years and billions of dollars for the United States to clean our air and water. Removing these regulations will open the door for air and water pollution to become common again. Hopefully, we can rectify the situation with the introduction of new laws via a new Congress in 2018.
The new tax law created multiple problems. The elimination of the SALT deduction is very detrimental to the constituents of the Sixth Congressional District and Illinois as a whole. Removing the mandate for healthcare critically changes how the ACA functions. There is absolutely no reason that corporations and the wealthiest citizens should receive huge tax breaks at the expense of working families while adding a $1.3 trillion deficit for our youth to manage.
The Trump administration’s nationalistic agenda is creating problems worldwide and at home. Actions like leaving the Paris Accord opened the door for other countries to fill the leadership gap that the United States vacated. The travel ban and xenophobic rhetoric has reduced the number of foreign students that opt to study in the United States. The downturn in international student enrollment has resulted in many universities facing major budget cuts.
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: Tampering with our elections is of grave concern. Senator Marco Rubio correctly warned us that it isn’t a partisan issue when he said, “Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.”
As an attorney, I believe in due process. Robert Mueller has proven himself to be a fair and competent investigator so I have faith in his ability to oversee a thorough and unbiased investigation. Without a doubt, Mueller and his team have my support.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Protecting citizens while guarding against loss of their civil liberties is a very hard needle to thread. I think that the FBI has done a very good job of protecting the United States from terrorism since September 11th. Any attack is an attack too many, but overall, the FBI has skillfully thwarted many major incidents without imposing harsh threats to civil liberty.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: We need to close the obvious loopholes and better enforce the laws already in place. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns used in suicides, domestic violence, gang shootouts and accidents. We can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.
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: Bump stocks, assault rifles and military-style weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time certainly have the potential to threaten public safety and it makes sense to consider restrictions. For decades, fully automatic “machine guns” have been outlawed for civilian purchase, so the notion is reasonable. At the same time, I am concerned with how a revival of the Assault Weapons Ban would be implemented. Previous attempts resulted in ambiguous standards for what qualified as a banned “assault weapon,” creating easily exploited loopholes. Any new legislation needs to honestly assess the technology and balance public safety with the rights of gun owners.
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: I believe that the historic level of income inequality is a serious problem that must be addressed, in part by ensuring that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes.
In addition to fairer tax policy, a key way to address the aforementioned gap is by ensuring access to affordable higher education for all. I went to law school after many years as a teacher and school administrator, yet I am still paying back my law school loans. I fully understand the crushing weight of student loan debt. There are young people starting off their careers in a deep hole and they can’t buy homes, start their own businesses, and otherwise participate fully in the economy. This not only affects the individual student, but the entire economy. As an elected representative in Congress, I would fully commit to negotiating better interest rates for student loans and would fight to keep student loan interest tax deductions. I also would work to re-implement a national direct loan program that pays back loans for students who enter high-priority fields.
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: Moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem is shortsighted. Peace in the Middle East, or anywhere in the world, for that matter, will come from the desire of the stakeholders in the region and not from outside forces making shortsighted decisions.
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 believe that we should be doing everything we can to broker a diplomatic solution in North Korea. It certainly isn’t in our interest for North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but we’re not going to prevent an arms race with Trump’s current tactics. Tweeting incendiary remarks at leaders abroad is not an effective strategy. Working with our allies in the region – including South Korea, Japan, and China – to reach a solution to keep North Korea from becoming nuclear will bring us increased success in the future.
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 believe the travel ban instituted by President Trump is intended to be a Muslim ban and that it is unconstitutional and morally abhorrent. The existing protocols we have in place to vet refugees have proven to be safe and effective, and the President’s ban is both unnecessary and dangerous. President Trump’s ban will only increase anti-American sentiment globally.
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: Absolutely not. We are a nation of immigrants. I support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants in the United States who contribute to our society and economy. As a college trustee, I see DACA students, firsthand, who are vitally important members of our community. It rips my heart out to think of telling any of these students that they’re not wanted here. I strongly oppose elimination of DACA and support legislation to provide DACA recipients with United States citizenship.
I am also very concerned about President Trump’s intention to minimize the number of refugees fleeing war and persecution accepted in the United States. Ignoring the world’s most vulnerable when we are more than capable of helping is to fail morally.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: The wall is costly and unnecessary. President Trump’s claim that the wall is needed to prevent drug dealers and violent criminals from crossing the border is disingenuous. Further, his current demands to tie building the wall to a DACA solution is harmful to 700,000 productive young people who only know the United States as their home.
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 Republican tax plan was written for wealthy Republican campaign contributors, the largest corporations and the wealthiest individuals, not for the average American. Over 80% of the permanent cuts will benefit those making more than $5 million a year and 15 of the largest and wealthiest corporations will receive a combined windfall of $236 billion. Meanwhile, average Americans and working families will be hit hard by the permanent cuts. Making matters worse, by creating a $1.5 trillion deficit, the Republicans are laying the groundwork for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Removal of the individual mandate means that one of the most important pieces of the Affordable Care Act will no longer be in play.
Support for universal healthcare is a cornerstone of my campaign. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide basic health care for all. Countries around the world spend less to provide more health care to their citizens; the United States has the most expensive health care in the world, but is not the best nor most efficient. I believe that we need single payer healthcare. In Congress, I would co-sponsor HR 676, which would abolish private insurance and expand Medicare to cover in full all medically necessary treatments and services to be paid for by existing Medicare and Medicaid money plus new progressive taxes. While we cannot get to a single payer system overnight because of opposition from Roskam and Republicans, I support improving the Affordable Care Act immediately to respond to rising health care costs. Exact timeframe stipulations should be set with guidance from experts, such as those in the Congressional Budget Office. We should take lessons from states that have managed these issues, for instance by adopting reinsurance pools to cover higher costs patients.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: We just came out of an election cycle where our party was rejected because of insider dealings and dislike of annointed candidates. The people of Illinois and the Sixth District, in particular, are sick and tired of being told who they should support. This is an election that’s going to be won street by street, block by block, and I’ve been working at it for three years. I know this community, and in both the primary and general election, I’ll continue to build the movement that I’ve been building since 2015. I am the only candidate in this race who has been building a movement for several years. I’m the candidate who has been in it for the long haul, and I’m going to take it to the finish line.