On Jan. 30, Sean Casten appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic seat in the 6th Congressional District of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:

My name is Sean Casten. I’m a biochemist by training and a clean energy entrepreneur and I spent twenty years running companies that had a mission to profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along the way I became aware that while there are no technological barriers to reducing a lot more CO2 that is out there, there are a lot of policy barriers and that led me to create first the Northeast Combined Heat and Power Initiative, which was a trade association of about 50 companies in the New England Northeast region to advocate for cleaner energy policies, and then to serve on the board, and as the chairman of U.S. Clean Heat and Power Association, doing the same thing at a national level. 

The driving force of my whole life has been climate change. There are plenty of problems we face as a nation but that one is existential. We are rapidly getting to a point where our planet is not going to be able to accommodate the kind of lifestyle or even the population we have. That’s not just about rising sea levels and temperatures. It’s about global instability. It’s about refugee waves. The State Department, Department of Defense have said this is the No. 1 threat we face in basic sustainability. The optimistic truth is that there are a ton of things we can do that lower energy costs, grow the economy and improve the climate. We’re not doing them. My big driver is to make sure that we do this.  


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. Sean Casten 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: Climate change has been the central organizing principle of my career. Specifically,, this has meant identifying the factual reasons for our inaction as a country and organizing my life in response. I do not expect this will change with my election to Congress. In 2000, I started Turbosteam based on a frustration with how few proven, profitable technologies that can lower CO2 emissions and generate economic growth were deployed – and yet how much of our national conversation framed the economy as being in tension with the environment.   We built 70 projects in the next 7 years but I also became aware of the numerous policy barriers to further growth. That led me to form the Northeast CHP Initiative with ~50 other cleantech businesses in the state to work collectively to remove those barriers. One of our earliest successes was to write the MA interconnection standard, which ensured that all power plants had a common set of technical requirements to interface with the electric utility system. (Previously, MA utilities could selectively apply higher standards to competitive power sources, thus blocking the deployment of lower cost, clean energy in the state.) That model was later nationalized and I led the U.S.CHPA where we worked on everything from solar/wind tax credits to the 2005 energy bill on Capitol Hill.

I eventually concluded that regardless of how good our products were, our ability to deploy capital was constrained by our balance sheet, since not all customers were willing to spend their money on a technology they didn’t understand. That led me to move to Illinois in 2007 and create Recycled Energy Development, which expanded the Turbosteam model but with a capital structure to own and operate the assets we built.   Over the next 10 years, we raised and invested approximately $200 million of equity capital to build and/or acquire and enhance clean energy projects in California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, further proving out the case for our mission to profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Addressing climate change and its geopolitical impacts (from rising sea levels to the political destabilization of North Africa) will continue to dominate our responsibilities as a nation, regardless of whether our political leaders are willing to acknowledge the underlying science.   Having proven how to grow the economy and improve the environment in the private sector, I look forward to identifying and removing those barriers to the sector that remain to help rebuild our national energy infrastructure with low cost, clean and reliable energy assets.


Sean Casten

District running for:  6th Congressional district (Illinois)

Political/civic background:  

FOUNDING CHAIRMAN, NORTHEAST COMBINED HEAT AND POWER INITIATIVE (MA-BASED CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION).

FORMER CHAIRMAN AND BOARD MEMBER, U.S. CLEAN HEAT AND POWER ASSOCIATION (NATIONAL CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION)

BOARD MEMBER, CASTEN FAMILY FOUNDATION (MISSION TO SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION)

 Occupation:

CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS

FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO OF RECYCLED ENERGY DEVELOPMENT LLC, A WESTMONT, IL-BASED CLEAN ENERGY DEVELOPER/OWNER/OPERATOR (2007 – 2017)

FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO OF TURBOSTEAM CORP, A MA-BASED MANUFACTURER OF WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANTS (2000 – 2007)

Education:

A. MOLECULAR BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE (1993)

S. BIOCHEMICAL ENGINEERING, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE (1998)

E.M (ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT), DARTMOUTH COLLEGE (1998)

Campaign website: CASTENFORCONGRESS.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: 2019 is increasingly looking like 2009 redux, wherein a wave of new Democratic leaders in Washington have a proverbial “inbox-from-hell” created by Republican excesses – but without the benefit of a competent leader in the White House. From the Mueller investigation to larger questions of our electoral integrity to our nation’s declining standing overseas, there will be an enormous number of major national problems that demand attention.

Several of those issues have direct bearing on the 6th district.

First, we have to defend and expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The recent tax bill’s inclusion of language to remove the individual mandate has been estimated to lead to 13 million Americans losing their health insurance. Moreover, the people this mandate removes from health roles tend to be the healthiest Americans, which will lead to an increase in insurance premiums. Restoring the individual mandate and expanding the ACA to include true universal healthcare will be critically important for the health and economics of 6th district families. The fact that the tax bill was passed while CHIP funding was ignored (and Republican proposals to fund CHIP through HR 3992 would have slashed funding for other critical IL health programs) likely ensures that this ‘skinny repeal’ will not be the only health crisis created by GOP votes that will be a priority to correct in 2019.

Second, the tax bill itself almost certainly represents a wealth transfer out of the 6th district, thanks to the cap on state and local property tax deductions. Precise calculations are still hard to come by since the vote was rushed through so quickly, but virtually all economists agree that the tax bill is massively regressive, with the bulk of the tax cuts flowing to corporations and the ultra wealthy at the expense of the middle class. I absolutely support tax reform that induces businesses to invest and creates jobs, but those reforms have traditionally worked with targeted incentives associated with capital investment and job creation – not simply by reducing corporate tax rates.

Third, in a district with a high college attendance rate, the increasingly high cost of a post-secondary education and student loan debt have created a ticking time bomb. Tuition costs have steadily grown at a far faster rate of inflation than the economy as a whole, gradually squeezing the middle class. While this is largely a function of lower actual and inflation-adjusted financial support for higher education by state governments – including our own – I support expanding the Pell Grant program, changing rules to allow those with student loan debt to refinance at current interest rates and a reversal of those changes made to the bankruptcy code in 2005 that made it impossible for insolvent Americans to ever discharge their student loan debt.

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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: Like most Americans, I have watched with dismay as the Republican leadership under Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump have driven straight party-line votes, without a whiff of bipartisanship. More notably, I am shocked and offended at the failure to consider factual analysis before voting. The ACA repeal votes in the House and Senate in 2017 were all taken before the Congressional Budget Office had completed their analysis of the bills’ impacts. The recent tax bill was passed by both houses without waiting for the report of the Joint Committee on Taxation. This is not the basis of good government but is consistent with a placement of politics over facts and donors over voters.

If I have correctly diagnosed the problem, it is intractable without Democratic majorities, and I certainly hope I am wrong.

That said, I am cautiously encouraged by my own professional experience which – like most peoples’ – did not depend on the support of politically like-minded colleagues. I have designed and built power plants with people who disagreed with my views on Roe v. Wade. I have led equity fundraises with people who disagreed with me about optimal structure of the U.S. tax code. I have successfully advocated for clean energy policies on both sides of the aisle, and found common cause with groups as diverse as the American Wind Association and Chevron.

These examples and more are the natural result of a life led outside of politics and in some fashion are common to all citizens.  If they sound exceptional in a political context, it speaks only to the failure of politicians to do what all of us do on a daily basis. Namely, to work in good faith with a group of people towards shared goals – and not get distracted by other, unrelated goals where you may not agree.   I am confident that there are many Republican members of Congress who share my views on some issues and think my non-partisan professional history will allow me to build bridges across the aisle.

TOPIC: President Donald Trump

QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?

ANSWER: I think he is the worst President of our generation. His narcissism and lack of intellectual curiosity put the country at risk every day.   His failure to attract A-level advisors or even to nominate people for key roles has been no less disruptive to the basic functioning of government. Layered on top of that of course is his basic meanness and xenophobia, which enables and empowers the worst elements of American society and is actively working to drive the best away from public service. I would not be running for office if I did not believe he desperately needed to be checked – or if I thought Peter Roskam was willing to take on that responsibility.

QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?

ANSWER: Trump has generated two positive trends in the U.S..

The first is the massive uptick in civic engagement. Waves of people are running for public office. Huge increases in voter turnout drives (Alabama and Virginia most recently), and public protests (for Women, for Science, etc.) are being seen across America. A meaningful increase in the level of public discourse, curiosity about the role and importance of our Constitution – from the emoluments clause to the differential ability to politicize intelligence hearings at the FBI and the House Intelligence committee – is occuring at the dinner table. These, and more, are positive civic developments that are all reactions to Trump and would not have happened without his excesses.

The second is the #MeToo movement and the larger conversation we are having about sexual harassment in America. Huge numbers of Americans were sickened by the Trump election, and specifically by the fact that a self-confessed sexual assaulter who stood accused of much greater crimes by 19 individual women could not only be elected to office but also brush all those accusations aside as “fake news.”   It is one thing to see a boss or coworker get away with a crime on a ‘he said, she said’ defense, but something else entirely to see that individual in the White House.   Americans could have given up and disengaged in response. They didn’t. And it is a testament to the fundamental character of the majority of the American people that we are now having a long-overdue conversation about sexual violence and demanding accountability that we did not in the pre-Trump era. Like the prior, this would not have happened without Trump’s behavior and I credit him (however inadvertently) with helping this to happen.

I am still looking for a third positive development out of the Trump administration and will advise if I find one.

With respect to those I oppose the most:

Having dedicated my life to addressing climate change, I remain shocked and offended that President Trump is working to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. To argue that climate change isn’t real is to argue that you disagree with the laws of thermodynamics – it is uninformed, and massively irresponsible.   With respect to Paris though, I have added concerns about the implications on the U.S. global standing. The Paris accords were a voluntary set of commitments agreed to by every country in the world. There are no penalties for non-compliance.   Walking away from those agreements in no way changes U.S. obligations to the rest of the planet – but does give serious cause to doubt whether the U.S. can be taken at their word in future multilateral negotiations.   Even if our next President were to rejoin Paris in their first day of office, we still wouldn’t undo the damage this has done to our ability to negotiate in good faith on the world stage.

My second concern is not a policy, but rather the overall damage done to the integrity of the U.S. electoral process.   Time and the Mueller investigation will ultimately determine whether President Trump or his team knowingly colluded with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. But we know the Russians engaged in active measures to sway the election towards Trump, we know Trump’s team was aware of these efforts and we have no evidence they did anything to interfere or disclose. That in itself is a bombshell and it should be a national priority to make sure it never happens again. Instead, we have a President blaming the whole thing on “fake news” certain members of the GOP leadership appearing to actively block the investigation and too many others in the GOP taking nothing beyond “baffling half-measures” in response to the single greatest challenge to U.S. electoral integrity in our history. Democracy depends upon the consent of the governed, which in turn requires that voters trust the electoral process. Losing that faith puts the entire U.S. government at risk, and I am horrified that the executive and legislative branches are not making this a bigger priority.

Finally, I am troubled by the the staffing failure throughout the executive branch. A year into the Trump presidency, and we are still waiting for nominations to many key positions.   Some of this blame is simply due to a woefully under-prepared President. But some is the failure to persuade good people who want to be associated with this administration. One need look no farther than the President’s legal team to realize how much he depends on third-tier talent. This vacuum has unfortunately been filled by the Koch brothers and their allies who have been able to fill judicial and executive appointments with underqualified individuals who will put the interests of their business over the country.

Friends at the state department and EPA have shared stories with me of a massively demoralized and under-resourced team that is increasingly incapable of addressing the daily challenges they face. The loser in this exchange is the American people, who increasingly cannot depend on their government to fulfill the basic functions that they expect. Michael Brown was rightly pilloried for his failure to lead the FEMA disaster recovery after Hurricane Katrina and yet we have done far less in response to the Puerto Rico disaster. Hillary Clinton was attacked mercilessly for the deaths in Benghazi and yet we are committing vastly bigger diplomatic failures on the Korean peninsula with (comparative) legislative silence.   Dan Quayle was pilloried for not being able to spell, and yet we have federal judicial nominees who have not only never tried a case but can’t even identify basic principles of juror selection. These failures are all of a common theme that derive from a failure of competency. The federal government is big and complicated. We need smart, patriotic people working there. Since Trump’s election – at least in the executive branch – we have failed to do so and are lurching from one crisis to the next, with nary a whiff of competence.

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: Mueller has my unconditional support. Our democracy is predicated on the trust of the American electorate that their vote matters. If this trust goes away, American democracy is at risk. We know unambiguously at this point that (a) Russians reached out to senior members of the Trump team to offer help to sway the election in their favor, (b) Senior members of the Trump team agreed to meet with the Russians after that request and (c) Russians engaged in active measures through Facebook and other social media outlets to discredit Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s electoral successes. This information alone is a bombshell and it should be an absolute priority of the federal government to ensure that this never happens again. The meaningful question from Mueller is whether or not Trump and his team actively colluded with the Russians in this effort and the only reason anyone would not be genuinely interested in the answer to this question is if they had something to hide. The American people understand this, and will not trust any future government that fails to allow Mueller to complete his independent investigation.

TOPIC: Terrorism

QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?

The University of Maryland maintains a database of all recorded terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and is the first place I look to understand the perpetrators and motives of terror attacks. (See https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/). What is quite clear from their extensive research is that the overwhelming majority of terror attacks are committed not by foreign nationals but by disaffected young men, often in the name of race- or religious extremism. Other than the color of his skin, there is little difference between James Alex Fields (the driver of the car in Charlottesville) and Akayed Ullah (the perpetrator of the Halloween terror attack in New York City). Both were disaffected young men who had decided that the causes of their personal struggles could be blamed on those of other skin colors/religions who were easily manipulable by immoral civic leaders.   We cannot address one independent of the other.

Internationally, this means providing diplomatic support to build institutions and create opportunities in those parts of the world that otherwise find it too easy to demonize the United States, coupled with targeted attacks to remove or otherwise disempower leaders in ISIS, al Qaeda and related entities who abuse their positions to radicalize these young men.

Domestically, we must do no less. We need to address the hollowing out of the middle class and those parts of the economy that have seen a collapse in job opportunities for young men, not only to prevent terror but also to reverse the increase in “deaths of despair”[1] And we must also actively disempower those who abuse their bully pulpit to radicalize these young men.

TOPIC: Guns and violence

QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?

ANSWER: Find some legislative way to effectively repeal the Citizens United decision.   Overwhelming majorities of Americans support common sense gun controls, from background checks to bans on assault weapons to “no fly no buy” rules. The failure of Congress to table such bills, much less vote on them, even in the wake of the Newtown shooting or Dylan Roof is due solely to the undue influence of the gun lobby in Congress. Until the distorting effect of money is removed from politics, we will fail to achieve the kind of meaningful and sensible gun reforms that are needed and supported by a large majority of Americans.

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: Yes, I favor a ban on bump stocks. I have no problem with hunting or responsible gun ownership. But I think we have lost sight of the ‘well regulated militia’ provisions of the second amendment.   The argument that we need to own deadlier weapons than our adversaries in the name of self defense can be extended ad infinitum to argue for concealed rocket propelled grenade launchers. No reasonable person would draw that conclusion, and yet it is logically consistent with arguments for civilian ownership of automatic rifles, bump stocks and much else. Let us not tolerate those who make those arguments any more.

Unless you are a member of a well-regulated militia, there can be no logical basis to own weapons that are designed primarily to quickly kill large numbers of human beings. Period. Automatic weapons, armor piercing bullets, bump stocks and RPGs should not be owned by anyone outside of the military.

I would also like to see training requirements for gun owners similar to those used by police and military professions. As recent events in Chicago have shown, even police with regular gun safety training are capable of making bad decisions when they have a loaded weapon in a stressful situation. We should assume that civilians without that training are at an even greater risk of committing inadvertent homicide.

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 quite agree with you.   The Gini coefficient in the U.S. is at levels not seen since the 1920s, and is at levels that in other countries has led to revolution. It is unsustainable, and giving tax cuts to the wealthy in response is not only unfair, but ultimately risks the stability of our economy and society. The rise in populism in recent years is a direct result of this wealth inequality and should be an absolute priority of all levels of government to address.

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: No, I do not.   Regardless of the merits of this decision from an Israeli perspective, the decision needlessly provokes our allies throughout the world and has the practical effect of destabilizing the global order that has prevailed since WWII. UN votes of opposition to this move and the hostility it has created among our Arab allies means that the coalition which we have depended on to steer through international crises – from the global treaty on chlorofluorocarbons to the first war in Iraq – will be weaker the next time they are needed. This is almost certainly in the national interest of Russia, Iran and North Korea who would like to see a weakening of these organizations but is not in the interests of the United States.

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: Kim Jong-Un, like President Trump has shown a willingness to jeopardize his own people in the name of his personal enrichment. This makes both of them exceedingly dangerous for the same reasons and I do not favor giving either of them a pretext for unilateral military action. I can certainly imagine situations where military action might be justified, but do not trust any government led by Donald Trump to make an informed decision based on the best U.S. intelligence that will minimize collateral damage.

Our most promising path to peace on the Korean peninsula is (a) to ensure they do not have the financial resources to obtain fissile material and (b) to pursue every diplomatic option – or as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis said this week, we should “aggressively” pursue diplomacy with North Korea.” This will require additional international sanctions, increased diplomatic pressure on Russia and significant coordination with China. President Trump’s weakening of international institutions, underfunding of the State Department, and weakening of U.S. standing among our allies all reduce our ability to address the North Korean threat.

TOPIC: Immigration

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 racist, period. The majority of undocumented immigrants are visa overstays, not illegal entries. The majority of terror attacks on our soil are (sadly) committed by U.S. citizens. There is no more causal link between Islam and terrorism than there is between Christianity and terrorism. Many demagogues have learned how to exploit religion to radicalize young men. But the problem is the demagogue, not the religion or the country of origin. Donald Trump’s incitement to violence at his own rallies and the murders in Charlottesville make that point all too clear.   The travel ban ironically serves only to make it easier to radicalize muslim men, by playing into a narrative that the United States is hostile to their beliefs. It should be reversed immediately.

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: No, we have not. In 2009, I was accepted into the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leader program, and we spent two years researching and preparing a white paper on U.S. immigration policy.[2] We had access to economists, intelligence experts, interfaith religious leaders and a host of other experts as we prepared our report. Among the key conclusions were that (a) the net economic effect of legal immigration is positive; (b) the net economic effect of undocumented immigration is at worst neutral and at best slightly positive; (c) immigrants as a group tend to be more law-abiding than the population as a whole, and it is not until the third generation that immigrants commit crimes at the same levels as the native born population.

In a less quantitative sense, I personally find diversity energizing and find more heterogeneous communities innately more interesting – this is core to our family foundation, which has inspired my family to travel around the world, host students in our home, and provide internships to international students.

Notwithstanding the above, immigration has been blamed for employment pressure especially at the low-skill end of the economy. In particular, as medium-skilled jobs have been lost to automation and globalization, many American workers are now under-employed relative to their skill levels, either taking low-skilled jobs or relying on the “sharing economy” to make a living, where they are competing directly with low-skilled immigrants who are in turn depressing wages in this sector. That has created a very real conflict between immigrants and certain elements of society which President Trump’s campaign appealed to. However, while this manifests as an immigration problem, it is ultimately caused by the loss of medium skilled jobs which should be addressed as the root cause.

QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?

ANSWER: No. This is a fundamentally stupid idea. It will waste financial resources to solve a non-existent problem. It is reminiscent of nothing so much as Stalin-era soviet construction projects, creating jobs and spending money for useless capital projects.

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: It has been estimated that the repeal of the individual mandate will cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance and – by removing the healthiest members from the pool – raise premiums for all (or worse, cause insurance companies to exit those markets.)   The decision to include this in the tax bill is inherently immoral.

I would like to see us not only restore the individual mandate, but also to add a public option to make sure that the ACA is expanded to provide truly universal healthcare.   We should do this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because those countries that have universal healthcare consistently deliver better health outcomes and lower per capita healthcare costs than the United States. Interestingly, the ACA with a public option looks a lot like the Swiss model, which delivers among the best outcomes of any country in the world, and at just ~70% of the U.S. cost. If we could emulate their success, that means a ~50% reduction in the medically-avoidable mortality rate in the U.S. and a $1 trillion per year savings in healthcare costs.   I would like to see us move in that direction rather than repealing the successes that the ACA has already brought about.

TOPIC: The opponent(s)

QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?

ANSWER: I am not a politician by training. I am a builder. I have spent my entire career identifying challenges, reviewing the facts relating to those challenges and building organizations to address them. What started as an idea about climate change led to a business with $80 million in annual revenue, 140 employees, more than $200 million of capital investments, and more than 70 projects integrated into virtually every type of energy-intensive manufacturing operation.   I have a demonstrated passion for and commitment to addressing climate change, but have addressed that within the context of applying the laws of thermodynamics, creating a business plan, hiring a team, raising the money necessary to fulfill that vision, and doing all that within the constraints of state, local and federal energy and environmental policy. My personal passions, from the environment to diversity are inherently democratic – but my track record of business success is more traditionally Republican. I am the only candidate in this race with an appeal to, and understanding of both ends of the political spectrum.

My competitors are good people with good intentions who will be reliable Democratic votes – but good isn’t sufficient in 2019. If President Obama faced the “in-box from hell” when he assumed office in January 2009, January of 2019 is potentially going to be worse: from national security risks to wealth inequality to the constitutional crises created by an increasingly unhinged executive… to name just a few. But in 2019, all these challenges will have to be tackled from the legislative branch, under active opposition from the White House.   We need to elect people who have a proven history of identifying big problems and mobilizing to address them. We need people who have proven an ability to lead large groups of people with disparate interests. We need people who instinctively look for win/win solutions.

My career has demonstrated all three skills and I hope to bring them to Washington to focus on the problems we face as a nation.   I also hope that Democrats nationwide learn from the Tea Party wave and don’t fall back on assumptions that any Democrat is better than any Republican. Competence and proven ability matters, now more than ever.

[1] See: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/casetextsp17bpea.pdf

[2] See final report here: https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/ELReport2011_ImmigrationDebate.pdf