On Jan. 30, Kelly Mazeski 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:
Hi, my name is Kelly Mazeski and I’m running for Congress in the Illinois 6th because I believe that the people in the Illinois 6th deserve a representative who will stand up for the hardworking families in our district.
I’m a breast cancer survivor and three years ago, when I was going through chemotherapy, our insurance company of 20 years notified us they weren’t going to cover us the next year. This was alarming to say the least but I got on the phone, did my research and I’m happy to say that the Affordable Care Act came through for me and my family. I was able to get quality insurance and keep my doctors. Peter Roskam and Donald Trump want you to believe that repealing the ACA and gutting Medicaid is in our best interest and we all simply know that’s not true.
I’m a scientist and because I’m a scientist I understand the harsh realities of climate change. It’s the biggest challenge facing our generation. I’ve been a lifelong member of Sierra Club and a long-term grassroots activist for the environment, and, in 2014 I was elected to the Illinois Environmental Council because of my work for our planet. Peter Roskam and Donald Trump are putting politics over facts when it comes to climate change. They’re jeopardizing the health of our planet, the health of children, simply to prop up fueling fossil fuel industries for their supporters and this has got to stop.
So I’m running for Congress because I want to stand up to Trump for healthcare, for the environment and for the hardworking families in our district and I’ve earned the endorsements of Emily …, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Cheri Bustos and many other members of congress and organizations because they believe and I believe that I’m the best candidate to take on and beat Peter Roskam next November, and I hope you do too. And I hope you’ll consider supporting my campaign and voting for me on March 20. Thank you.
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. Kelly Mazeski 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: I announced my campaign on the same day Peter Roskam and the Republicans in Congress voted to make Americans pay more to get less for their health insurance to emphasize that I will work tirelessly in Congress to ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable healthcare. More specifically, I will co-sponsor a bill my first year in Congress to pass a Medicare-for-all public option that will compete side-by-side with private insurance companies on the healthcare exchange. I believe this is the next step to guaranteeing all Americans get covered.
Additionally, as a lifelong environmentalist, I would work to pass legislation that would force the United States to adhere to the same rules as the Paris Climate Accord regardless of President Trump’s irresponsible actions.
District running for: 6th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: I have served 18 years in my local government as a Village Trustee, Zoning Commissioner, and Plan Commissioner. My experience in each of these positions has taught me the importance of listening to the concerns of my constituents so I can work in their best interest when voting on local matters. I will take this same approach with me to Washington so I can best represent the constituents of the 6th District.
Occupation: Former Product Development Chemist, Former Financial Consultant, and Community Volunteer
Education: B.S. in Biology, Minors in Chemistry and Business from Saint Mary’s College; Notre Dame, IN
Campaign website: kellymazeski.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 three district-specific needs that will be my priorities are gerrymandering, establishing legislation that requires members of Congress to hold public in-person town halls, and repealing the GOP tax bill. I will work hard to pass legislation that will end the practice of politicians playing politics with our maps and disenfranchising voters. Currently, IL-06 has a Congressman who has only ever held one town hall since he was first elected more than a decade ago. I believe it is the duty of members of Congress to hold in-person, public town halls and I will sponsor legislation requiring Congressmen and Congresswomen to regularly hold public town halls with their constituents. Lastly, I will work with my colleagues in Washington to repeal the terrible GOP tax bill that gives tax cuts to the ultra-rich and big corporations while increasing taxes on Illinois middle-class families.
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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: I have served 18 years in my local government, oftentimes as the only Democrat in the room, and I understand what it means to be a solutions-oriented leader who believes in working across the aisle to ensure government works better for its people. If the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections, and I am fortunate enough to represent the constituents of IL-06, then I will take my solutions-oriented approach to Washington to work with both Democrats and Republicans to pass substantive legislation that will help the American people.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: President Trump’s reckless agenda, terrible Twitter habit, and attacks on our staunchest allies have already put America’s standing as a world leader in jeopardy. It is imperative Democrats win back the House in 2018 to act as a check and balance on the Trump administration’s dangerous agenda.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: While on the campaign trail, Trump said he was committed to improving healthcare coverage for all Americans, something that I could have supported. However, he did not do this and he has done nothing else that I can support.
The three actions taken by the Trump Administration that I oppose the most are the multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the GOP tax bill, and the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine Obama-era environmental protections. First, Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have kicked millions of Americans off their health insurance plan and raised premium prices making already rising health insurance costs increase. Second, the GOP tax bill is terrible for America. It blows a $1.5 trillion hole in our deficit, which our kids will be stuck paying for, while giving tax cuts to the ultra-rich and big corporations instead of middle class families. This is wrong and the American people deserve better. Lastly, President Trump has rolled back many Obama-era environmental protections that will have long-term effects on our environment, including pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, opening drilling in the Arctic, and attacking our public lands. And on January 4th, he announced he would seek to remove the decades-old ban on offshore drilling. As a lifelong environmentalist, I understand the implications of these actions and will fight to pass legislation that moves America away from its reliance on fossil fuels and creates a clean energy economy.
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: Because the 2016 election showed that vulnerabilities exist in our election systems, we must take steps to ensure that future foreign attacks do not disrupt our democratic process. I fully support the Mueller investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. I also believe Congress has an obligation to the American people to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump until the Special Counsel finishes his investigation.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: My number one job in Congress will be to keep America safe against threats, both foreign and domestic. We need to invest in a robust intelligence system that includes human intelligence on the ground across the globe. We need a stalwart diplomatic corps that builds relationships with allies in even hostile nations. The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the world stage and decimation of the foreign services personnel is a huge step in the wrong direction.
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 in America is to expand criminal background checks for gun purchases over the internet, at gun shows, in newspaper ads, or between friends and family. Studies show expanding criminal background checks are effective at keeping guns away from individuals who are most likely to use them to commit a crime, and an overwhelming majority of Americans favor background checks on all gun buyers with 92% of Americans favoring expansion, including 87% of Republicans.
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 support banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” because there is no reason an individual should be able to unload ammunition at the firing speed of a semi-automatic weapon unless they’re in the military and at war. Additionally, I would support legislation making silencers illegal, closing the boyfriend loophole, preventing anyone on the FBI’s No Fly List from purchasing guns, and providing funding to the National Institute of Health to conduct research on gun violence prevention.
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: Since the 1980s, income inequality in our country has been growing. The tax bill passed last month by Republicans in Congress favors the ultra-rich and big corporations while increasing inequality in America, which I find troubling. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential, and a prosperous middle class is essential to that, but America’s middle class is shrinking. And income inequality and the lack of upward mobility are the worst they have been in generations. I would address income inequality in two ways: by investing in education and making sure the rules of the economy support the middle class and working families.
We need to put good-paying jobs within reach for everyone who is willing to work hard. Education and job training is critical for this to happen. Our government should invest in job skills training and increase educational opportunities for all, from expanding access to preschool to making higher education affordable.
But investing in education and job training is only half the battle. We need to invest in our country’s infrastructure and renewable energy to build an economy of the future, while creating good-paying jobs in the process. Congress should also rewrite the rules of the economy so that the middle class and working people get their fair share. We need to crack down on companies that shift profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes and make sure companies that move jobs abroad don’t get tax breaks. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. And we need to guarantee workers paid leave so they can raise their kids and take care of their loved ones without sacrificing their careers.
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 President Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It contradicts decades of bipartisan presidential policy and the Trump Administration’s declared commitment to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The President’s decision to move the embassy in Israel hinders efforts to secure lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors and threatens Israel’s security. Additionally, Trump’s statement undermines the viability of a two-state solution, which has received forty years of bipartisan support and will further stabilize the Middle East. A two-state solution will establish Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while ensuring the Palestinians can govern themselves in their own state with dignity.
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 United States is a plausible response to the threat of nuclear weapons posed by North Korea but it is the worst response. A military response would put millions of South Korean, Japanese and US troops lives at risk and cause a refugee crisis in China. Given the proximity of North Korea to Japan and South Korea, if America were to launch a surgical strike on North Korea, the hostile country would likely retaliate against US allies Japan and South Korea with missile strikes. Pyongyang has the world’s largest artillery arsenal and could use its missiles to strike Japan or South Korea within minutes of an American strike, threatening the lives of millions. These actions would cause the region to quickly destabilize and create a large-scale refugee crisis, where millions would flee north to China, which is something China voiced it does not want to happen. A better alternative to military action would be for America to continue pursuing its strategy of economic pressure and diplomacy in partnership with China to put pressure on North Korean and ensure the region remains stable.
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 all versions of the Trump administration’s travel ban are racist, and undermine our country’s commitment to not discriminate based on religion, gender, skin color, or sexual orientation.
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: Since the time of founding fathers, America has been a nation of immigrants where people come to America because it represents hope and opportunity. It is not about the number of immigrants, which has decreased during the last decade, but fixing our broken immigration system. Congress needs to pass bipartisan immigration reform to ensure law-abiding undocumented immigrants in this country can come out of the shadows and have a pathway to citizenship, while strengthening border security and cracking down on employers who intentionally hire undocumented workers.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: The “wall” between the United States and Mexico should not be built. This would be a waste of taxpayer money that should be used towards investing in America’s crumbling infrastructure instead. If President Trump and the Republicans in Congress were successful in building their “wall,” it would accomplish nothing except alienating one of America’s allies.
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 repeal of the individual mandate threatens the viability of the Affordable Care Act. Without the individual mandate, people do not have to purchase insurance and can simply wait until they are sick to purchase insurance coverage, meaning the insurance risk pool will be primarily comprised of the sick and elderly while healthy and young individuals may opt not to be covered. This will catastrophically drive up premiums and cause millions Americans to lose their health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation found in November 2017 that repealing the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured by 4 million people in 2019 and 13 million people by 2027. Once Democrats take back the house, they need to immediately do what Congressman Roskam and the GOP majority haven’t done – stabilize Obamacare and pass legislation to lower costs and increase coverage including passing a Medicare-for-all public option.
TOPIC: Your opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I am the only Democrat in the race who has the grassroots and institutional support to take on and beat Peter Roskam in November.