Democrats slam Roskam while advocating reforms, active agenda

By Jack Mccarthy Chronicle Media

Seven Democratic candidates for Congress (from left) Becky Anderson Wilkins, Carole Cheney, Jennifer Zordani, Sean Casten, Amanda Howland, Ryan Huffman and Kelly Mazeski, appeared at last week’s 6th District forum at Glenbard South High School. (Photo by Jack McCarthy/Chronicle Media)

Democratic candidates for Congress accused incumbent Republican Peter Roskam of lacking accountability during a Glen Ellyn forum last week and each pledged to be more accessible and answerable if elected to represent Illinois’ Sixth District.

“Washington is broken and Roskam has proven that he does not work for the people in this district,” said Jennifer Zordani, a regulatory attorney and among five women running. “I met a young man who is working three jobs to try to limit his college debt. … (Roskam) doesn’t think about the young man, he doesn’t think about seniors. He doesn’t think about anyone in between.”

Seven Democratic candidates also offered views on a wide range of issues, during the two-hour forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn. The winner of the March 20 Democratic primary faces Roskam in the November General Election.

Roskam, unopposed for the Republican nomination, repeatedly drew criticism for what Democrats called his lack of access by constituents and limited town hall meetings.

“I (was) Illinois chief of staff to Congressman Bill Foster (D-11th) and in that capacity I did exactly what Peter Roskam does not do,” attorney Carole Cheney told more than 400 persons last Wednesday at Glenbard South High School. “I met with constituents, I held town halls and I made the government work.”

Other candidates include:

Kelly Mazeski, a Barrington Hills plan commissioner and environmental advocate; Amanda Howland, College of Lake County trustee and 2016 Democratic nominee; Becky Anderson Wilkins, Naperville City Council member and suburban bookstore co-owner; Ryan Huffman, former White House intern under President Barack Obama and Department of Energy employee; and Sean Casten, scientist and clean energy entrepreneur.

The Sixth District includes portions of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Cook counties. Roskam has served as representative since 2007.

Around 400 people crowded into a theater at Glenbard South High School last week for a forum featuring candidates for Congress from the 6th Congressional District. The session was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn. (Photo by Jack McCarthy/Chronicle Media)

Between Democrats the tones were cordial, with broad agreement on issues ranging from election security and campaign finance, health care and reproductive rights, gun control and support for immigration reform.

Candidates called for measures to stop voter suppression and district boundaries drawn to unfairly benefit one party.

“These efforts at voter suppression — whether its pulling back the Voting Rights Act, seeing what’s happening in gerrymandering in the states and even the Russian electoral hacking — you can understand why the Republican Party has been so silent,” said Casten. “They depend on disenfranchisement. (Nothing changes) if we don’t get Democrats in control.”

The Democrats uniformly supported he Affordable Care Act, slammed repeated Republican efforts to repeal it. Some called for a single payer health care system.

“I am a breast cancer survivor and three years ago I was going through chemo and our insurance company of 20 years informed me they weren’t going to cover us the following year,” said Mazeski. “This was alarming … but the Affordable Care Act came through for me.

“Peter Roskam and Donald Trump want us to believe that repealing the ACA and Medicare is in our best interest. I’ll bet that all of us in this room agree that is simply not true.”

Congressman Peter Roskam, Republican Sixth District

Howland, also a breast cancer survivor who also lost a kidney two years ago, called for broad access to health care coverage.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” she said. “Universal health care is incredibly important to me. Right now we spend so much money on administrative costs with our insurance companies that it’s absolutely ridiculous. … We could save several trillion dollars that we could put back into our health care system.”

Anderson Wilkins was supportive a range of women’s issues from choice to equal pay. She also addressed today’s most timely issue — workplace sexual harassment.

“So many women in this country should be so proud we’re standing up,” she said. “We need to encourage everyone to stand up. Because the more we stand up and the more we fight it, the sooner we’re going to end it.”

The recent Florida high school shooting that left 17 dead and many more injured offered the latest argument for stricter gun laws.

“Reinstating the assault weapons ban is a good place to start,” said Huffman. We’ve got to ban bump stocks, we’ve got to ban high-capacity magazines and silencers. These guns are made for the military, they’re not made to be on our streets.”

Roskam beat Howland by 19 points in 2016 while Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district over Republican Donald Trump.

This time, national Democrats see the 6th District as an opportunity for a pickup.

Roskam, however, has advantages in funding ($1.3 million on hand last October) plus recognition and incumbency. Politico said the race is among the Top 10 nationally to watch while the Cook Political Report rates the district as a tossup. Two other election analysts see the district as still leaning Republican.



— Democrats slam Roskam while advocating reforms, active agenda  —-