On Jan. 30, Jennifer Zordani 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:
I’m Jennifer Zordani. I’m running for the 6th Congressional District seat. I’m a democrat. I am civically engaged on the education front and I’m a voice for the Illinois 6th District.
Healthcare is one of the top priorities for people in our district so my cause is to fix healthcare for the people in our district. We know that the Affordable Care Act is a great platform and we need to bring prescription drug prices down. We need to make healthcare affordable and accessible for everybody and people in the district agree with that. They disagree with Roskam’s approach to repeal and replace with no solutions.
Our district-specific need was caused by Peter Roskam. It is the tax reform bill that is donor and influenced based. It doesn’t work for the people in our district so we have to restore the state and local tax deductions, stop capping them. We also have to make tax reform fair and balanced and level the playing field. The tax reform bill does nothing that he promised. It’s not simpler and it favors special interests. It’s wrong for the people in the Illinois 6th and it’s wrong for Illinois. It’s wrong for America.
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. Jennifer Zordani 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: Fixing Healthcare in America. Fixing the American healthcare system is my top priority for the working families, seniors, and veterans of Illinois 6. Most Americans, regardless of income level, agree that skyrocketing healthcare costs and the instability in our healthcare system are completely unacceptable.
Making the Affordable Care Act an Effective Healthcare Program. As Congresswoman, I will fight to make the Affordable Care Act more effective. Since most Americans oppose taking insurance away from those who have obtained it through the ACA, it’s time to make the ACA work. Peter Roskam has been proud of his repeal-and-replace mantra. But with several terms under his belt, Roskam has failed to offer any alternatives. Though Congress must make some tough decisions about cost allocations and other structural aspects of the program, the ACA is fixable. I will advocate for solutions that bring healthcare costs down for every American, regardless of their income level.
Bringing the Cost of Prescription Drug Prices Down. Exorbitantly high prescription costs are a national tragedy. Many struggle to fill their drug prescriptions because costs are too high. The federal government should negotiate drug prices through the Medicare system, reviewing, monitoring and possibly restricting price increases for products developed with federal funds. As Congresswoman, I will support legislation that allows people to purchase prescription drugs from other countries that have safety standards comparable to U.S. Federal Drug Administration standards.
Improving the Veterans Administration. We have a responsibility to the Americans who have served in the military, including the 27,000+ veterans in the 6th Congressional District. Clearly, caregivers and healthcare providers at the VA are deeply committed to serving veterans. As Congresswoman, I will support legislation to provide sufficient resources to the VA to help workers serve those who have sacrificed for our country.We have an obligation to reduce veteran homelessness and suicides, supporting legislation that helps veterans transition to civilian life through job training, education, and affordable housing. Congressional efforts to reform the Veteran Administration continue to fall short of our obligation to provide America’s heroes — our military families, veterans, Guard members, and reservists — with post-service employment, access to healthcare, and mental health services. We cannot continue to have the VA ranked as a high-risk area of concern by the Government Accountability Office.We have a responsibility to fight for thoughtful legislation that will resolve critical issues affecting Veterans’ care and benefits, including failure to provide veterans with timely access to care, inefficient management of a multi-billion-dollar budget, and a general lack of transparency and accountability. I will fight all efforts to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Creating a Responsible Federal Budget That Protects Social Security and Medicare: As I travel extensively throughout Illinois 6, I meet many working families and seniors who are deeply concerned about Social Security and Medicare. Individuals who pay into Social Security system are entitled to receive payments. Congress has an obligation to honor American workers and retirees by protecting Social Security and Medicare.
The constant attacks on Social Security and Medicare must stop. As Congresswoman, I will support a responsible federal budget that prioritizes and protects these programs.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform: As Congresswoman, I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals, similar to the Gang of Eight bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013. However, House Republicans, including Peter Roskam, opposed it and refused to act. Roskam’s opposition to comprehensive immigration reform is baseless. There is a broad base of support for it, including from many regional businesses. I will support efforts to modernize our immigration process so that individuals applying for visas and green cards can be served more effectively.
I support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and I support a clean Dream Act. It is a disgrace that young people who are American in every way–but for a certificate of citizenship–are living in fear and constant insecurity.
I will fight all efforts by the Trump Administration to use an individual’s immigration status to deny equal protection under the law. We must aggressively prosecute individuals who commit hate crimes.
District running for: 6th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political Background: A new voice for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. Former President of an education non-profit.
Occupation: Regulatory Attorney
Education: Bachelor of Arts-Economics, University of Chicago
Juris Doctor, Kent College of Law- IIT
Campaign Website: ZordaniForCongress.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: Reforming the Tax Reform Bill
The Tax Reform Bill passed by the Republicans is a big, bold failure for the people of Illinois 6. Peter Roskam proudly claims to be a chief architect of the Republican plan, and he proudly restricted the state and local tax (SALT) deductions that many taxpayers in Illinois 6 depend upon. SALT deductions have been an integral part of the federal tax code since its inception – for a reason. People should not pay federal taxes on the money they pay to their state and local government. Right or wrong, Illinois is likely to remain a high-tax state. As Congresswoman, I will fight to restore full SALT deductions.
Like many Congressional districts in America, Illinois 6 requires substantial infrastructure improvements, especially improvements to road, bridges, and technology including high-speed internet. Decreased safety and lost productivity from outdated infrastructure continues to increase the costs to businesses and individuals. The Republican tax reform bill may likely result in a major reduction in revenues, making infrastructure a pipedream. Nonetheless, as Congresswoman, I will fight for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that provides Illinois 6 and the rest of America with funds for infrastructure improvements.
McHenry County is one part of Illinois 6 with limited highway access. As Congresswoman, I will work with state and local government to seek better highway access for McHenry County.
I will also support ongoing efforts to expand and modernize O’hare Airport and adjacent transportation infrastructure in the region.
Affordable Higher Education
Parents and students across Illinois 6 voice deep concerns about the cost of higher education. A couple from Downers Grove shared with me how they stopped taking vacations as their kids approached college so that they could help their kids get through school.
Access to higher education is crucial to making Illinois 6 a great place to live, work, and raise a family. As compared to a high school diploma, a college education leads to increased income, economic self-sufficiency, and generational wealth. However, students must have affordable options to fund their college education. Unfortunately, for the first time in history, adults under age 30 are worth only half as much as their parents at the same age. I attribute this in part to rising student loan debt.
As Congresswoman for the Illinois 6th, I’d attack the escalating costs of higher education by taking the following actions:
I’ll support legislation that expands the availability of need-based federal grants and work-study programs. As tuition costs have skyrocketed across America, Pell Grants have become insufficient in covering a substantial portion of students’ college expenses. Congress must take action to reverse the erosion of the Pell Grant system and similar federal programs.
I’ll support legislation that limits interest rates on federal student loans. Students and parents frequently pay interest on student debt at rates that far exceed the rates that the federal government charges banks to borrow money. The federal government does not need to profit from student loans. Congress must take a stand.
I’ll advocate for more straightforward student loan information. The loan process is unnecessarily cumbersome and confusing. Students and their parents need transparent details about student loan rates so that they can make sound decisions about managing education costs.
I’ll support legislation that fixes the federal debt-relief program, allowing students to relieve their school debt once they’ve worked 10 years in public service jobs. At present, this program is confused and poorly designed. Congress should take an affirmative step to improve this program, ensuring it provides debt relief as intended.
I’ll support legislation that will continue to curb the predatory business practices of for-profit colleges that have a sordid history of misleading applicants on the viability of degree programs and post-college employment potential. Since many for-profit colleges receive an extremely high percentage of federal funding through student loans, Congress must continue to take affirmative steps to prevent predatory practices that abuse the federal student loan system and harm students.
I’ll also support efforts to police student loan servicing companies. These businesses are supposed to help millions of student borrowers manage and repay student loans, but student loan servicing companies often fall short. Congress must maintain the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which helps prevent abusive practices by loan servicing companies.
RELATED ARTICLES: Kelly Zordani
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: The Illinois 6th District is now a moderate district. Thanks to the migration of young families from downtown Chicago to the Western Suburbs, voters are essentially evenly divided, with some independents and undecideds in the middle. My job as Congresswoman will be to represent the entire district, and ensure that my legislative initiatives will benefit all constituents of Illinois 6.
I am familiar with a variety of negotiating styles, and expect to develop good working relationships with House colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Anyone who knows me knows that I am willing to work hard to reach a laudable goal. Congressional colleagues who want to make progress on issues will find that I am a team player.
While I remain optimistic about bipartisan caucus opportunities, they have been limited and have met with less success than expected. Therefore, individual actions are more likely to be the path to success.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: As an institution, the office of the President of the United States commands respect. We expect the person occupying the office to reflect the dignity and decency of the best among us. President Donald J. Trump’s abrasive style and actions fall extremely short of presidential expectations. He uses highly divisive, xenophobic rhetoric, and breaks established presidential norms to exploit his supporters’ disenchantment with politics — all for his own personal aggrandizement.
The President is not creating better government, stronger foreign relations, or a sense of American pride with his incendiary tweets. I recommend people of all political leanings read George Will’s columns regarding the President; he captures the essence of this President as well as anyone.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: I oppose the administration’s racism, xenophobia and bigotry, including the continual attacks and affronts on minority communities: the President’s Travel Ban executive orders; the removal of recognition of LGBT-Q persons from the White House website; the President’s seeing “two sides” to the Charlottesville riots; the President’s retweeting an anti-Muslim video; the removal of civil rights protections within the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Education; and of course, the Republican National Committee’s decision to support Roy Moore for U.S. Senate.
I oppose the administration’s failure to appropriately staff the State Department and to ensure that we maintain strong relationships with other countries. These failures will have long-term ramifications.
I oppose the administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and the administration’s inability to recognize that America’s environmental standards have made it successful. China’s air, land and water are irreparably tainted, and China’s leaders are finally taking action to meet modern environmental standards. Yet, the Trump administration wants to rollback our progress on the environment. It is unbelievably short-sighted and costly.
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: Special counsel Mueller’s investigation is vital to ensuring that we defend American institutions from attacks by foreign and non-state actors. Every patriotic American should want to know exactly what occurred during the 2016 election. Mueller has my support. To the extent that he is impeded in his ability to fully investigate Russian tampering in the 2016 election and any related violations of law, I also will support a review by an independent counsel or commission.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Congress must reject Islamophobia and encourage the administration to build better relationships with Muslim communities. By disenfranchising Muslims and people of Middle Eastern ancestry, the administration increases the risk that law-abiding people will fear federal law enforcement. This ultimately will decrease our ability to detect and deter terrorist threats at home.
Congress must be more assertive in reviewing and leading on domestic security issues. There are difficult issues to address, including the scope of domestic surveillance, but they should not be left to the Executive Branch alone. Congress has an obligation to require responsible surveillance in accordance with Constitutional and other legal requirements.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: Congress must institute universal federal background checks on all firearm sales, including closing the “gun show loophole” where felons and other prohibited individuals purchase firearms through transactions between private sellers, also referred to as the secondary market.
Overwhelmingly, Americans, including responsible gun owners, support reasonable and responsible efforts to address gun violence. They support efforts to remove guns from convicted domestic abusers and others who are a danger to themselves or others. The NRA no longer represents responsible gun owners. It no longer advocates for common-sense gun laws or supports responsible gun ownership.
Though no single law is a cure-all for the mass shootings that occurred in Aztec, New Mexico, Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland, Texas in 2017, Congress must take affirmative steps to reduce the level of violence, making Americans safer without undermining responsible gun owners’ 2nd Amendment rights. This is an issue where most Republican and Democratic voters agree.
As Congresswoman, I will represent every person who could be affected by a bullet. I will represent the person who is troubled when they go into their church, synagogue or mosque, and must think about their physical safety instead of their spiritual renewal. I will represent every parent who thinks about their child going into the movie theater and wondering whether to tell the kid to look for an exit in case of Fire — Gun Fire. I will represent every teacher that has a heavy heart when she talks with their students about the lock-down drill.
America has always been about striving for the best. We must strive mightily right now.
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: I will support a permanent ban on bump stocks and similar devices designed to substantially accelerate semi-automatic weapons’ rate of fire. I also support a permanent ban on the sale of all semi-automatic, “military-style” assault rifles to the general public, including high-capacity magazines and silencers. These military-style weapons exceed a responsible civilian gun owners’ right to own firearms for self-defense.
I will not support a federal concealed carry bill that removes all certification requirements to carry a loaded, concealed handgun into another state. Such a bill would ‘nationalize’ concealed carry in a manner that would allow gun owners from less restrictive states to travel with their concealed, loaded weapons into another state with more restrictive concealed carry laws designed to protect public safety.
I support “No Fly, No Buy” restrictions for individuals listed on the FBI’s Terror Screening Center’s database of suspected terrorists and other individuals banned from boarding planes. Anyone on this “No Fly List” should not be able to purchase a gun. Nonetheless, Congress must enact appropriate legislation to ensure that adding and removing individuals from the “No Fly List” does not undermine individuals’ due process rights.
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 are exactly right. The income and wealth gap is troubling not only because it is still expanding, but because there are no easy paths to closing it.
Congress had a golden opportunity to fix the tax code through bipartisan tax reform that could have reduced giveaways to corporations and wealthy individuals who do not need giveaways. Instead, a Republican-led Congress chose to maintain the favorable tax provisions for carried interest which gives capital gains treatment to investment managers when other service providers do not receive the same benefits. A Republican-led Congress also chose to increase certain benefits for capital investments when the tax code already favors capital over labor.
Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are targeting social safety net programs including Social Security, Medicare, and SNAP, programs necessary for the health and well-being of many Americans, including our seniors.
As Congresswoman, I will continue to support union labor, in part because organized labor has been one of the most effective ways to raise wages and strengthen the middle class. Collective bargaining has been particularly useful in helping low wage workers enter the middle class.
Lower income individuals, minorities and women have historically suffered from higher unemployment rates and lower wages. I will support legislation that strengthens job training, skills training and other programs to help traditionally disenfranchised workers achieve higher employment rates and higher-paying jobs.
I also will advocate for career and technical training as a foundation for skills learning for all students. We must make higher educational opportunities more widely available including vocational training, community college, and four-year colleges and universities.
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: I do not support the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This was another example of the administration taking a disruptive action rather than executing an actual diplomatic strategy towards peace in the region.
I support Israel and hope that I will live to see a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict through a two-state solution. At the same time, I recognize that the two-state solution — or any solution — requires willing participants on both sides. At present, the distance between Israel and Palestine is growing. Each side has factions that prevent resolution. Nonetheless, neither the U.S. nor any third party can control the paths taken by Palestine or Israel. While the U.S. has always been ready to broker peace, the current administration’s actions have placed it on the sidelines.
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: Military action by the U.S. is a plausible, but the least desirable, response to the nuclear weapons threat by North Korea. Without doubt, North Korea is hell-bent on developing nuclear armaments capable of reaching the U.S. We know that Kim Jong Un is the powder keg in the Korean Peninsula, and military action would have dire, irreversible consequences. Even preemptive military action will result in massive loss of life.
I denounce President Trump’s brinkmanship and irresponsible banter to meet North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” with a ‘nuclear button’ “much bigger & more powerful.” The President’s inability to resist taunts with Kim Jong Un is astoundingly irresponsible and threatens the safety and security of millions of people, including our military men and women.
We should continue to employ all possible diplomatic options and act in a thoughtful manner. We should maintain and increase sanctions against North Korea. There is no doubt that other countries and leaders share the same goals and want North Korea to reverse its current course, and they are struggling with how to make progress. We did not create this problem. But we should not make it worse.
In addition to his incendiary approach, the President has made numerous other statements and taken actions that undermine our partners in Asia and our own Secretary of State. Countries, like China, have a closer and better ability to affect North Korea on many fronts. North Korea’s nuclear program is only one piece of the puzzle. History, economics and an ability to “save face” matter, so we need to recognize this is not an issue that is going away anytime soon. We have to work very hard to avoid escalation, but also to be prepared for a worse-case scenario.
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 travel ban is illogical — and obviously hateful. Every official that participated in the Executive Order should feel ashamed. They chose to increase the divide and make people afraid. As Congresswoman, I will fight for equal protection for all, regardless of race, creed, nationality, religious/non-religious belief.
With the multiple versions of the travel ban, the administration revealed that its approach to international relations, economic policies and national security is confused and disruptive. The administration continues down the wrong path. Its original and continued goal, as President Trump stated, is to shutdown Muslims from entering the country. That goal means that the administration will not develop a useful and effective approach to many important issues.
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: The U.S has not been accepting too many immigrants. The American way of life is based on hard work, education and self-sufficiency. Immigrants who are seeking a better life in America exemplify our values. Skin color, country of origin, and religion give texture to the American way of life by enhancing it, not threatening it.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: No. America has enhanced security along our border with Mexico dramatically since the Bush II administration and the Obama administration. Where there is not a physical barrier, it is usually because there are serious impediments to building it. Filling in the areas of the Wall that are still open will be very costly and pose other problems, such as economic harm to Americans, fights with landowners over eminent domain, and environmental risks.
Border security encompasses much more than the land-based border with our Southern neighbor. Money should be spent where it is most effective, not to fulfill a bigoted campaign promise made by President Trump.
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 elimination of the individual mandate does threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act. Young people and healthy people who already are frustrated with the costs will choose not to maintain coverage, thus increasing the costs to those remaining in the system. I support reinstating the individual mandate.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I am a strong, new voice ready to fight for working families, our seniors and veterans, and the future of our children and grandchildren. I have the grit, gravitas and policy chops to go toe-to-toe with Peter Roskam, and can win the appeal of moderates, progressives, centrists, and undecideds in our “toss-up” congressional district in the Western Suburbs.
Voters of all political stripes are frustrated with the failures in Washington. Voters see in me someone who is not an establishment politician, an office-chaser, or part of the political elite, but someone who is only interested in making Illinois 6 constituents the top priority. They know I will host regular town halls. They know I will work diligently to fix healthcare in America, making the Affordable Care Act effective, and bringing down the cost of prescription drug prices. Voters know I will fight for a responsible federal budget that protects Social Security and Medicare, an improved Veterans Administration, and a tax code that helps working families and the middle class. They know I will fight for affordable higher education and a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create better paying jobs. Voters are ready for comprehensive immigration reform, and I share that goal.
Voters expect their leaders to be fiscally responsible while promoting better government. As a regulatory attorney, I have the passion to fight for solutions to entrenched problems, and the capabilities to get the job done in Washington. With my people-powered campaign, I’m ready to put the people of Illinois 6 first. I’ll be honored to have their vote.