Congressional contenders launch election season at forum

Matt Brolley (from left) of Montgomery, Victor Swanson of Batavia, Lauren Underwood of Naperville, Jim Walz of Gurnee and George Weber of Lakewood answer questions during a candidate forum for the 14th Congressional District seat Sunday at The Congregational United Church of Christ in Campton Hills on Sept. 10.[]

CAMPTON HILLS – The five people seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 14th Congressional District seat in March’s primary election took part in the first forum for candidates Sunday.

The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, who did not attend the forum.

Hultgren did not respond to invitations from Fox Valley Action for Justice, which hosted the forum, said co-administrator Rebecca Reber at the reception after almost 90 minutes of questions posed to the candidates by the group and by the more than 100 members of the audience in the sanctuary of The Congregational United Church of Christ in Campton Hills.

At the reception, candidates spoke about their proposals and their campaigns with attendees.

Audience members voiced appreciation for the forum and the candidates’ participation.

“It’s good to see some positive candidates who have a good chance to beat Hultgren,” Page Paris of Geneva said at the reception.

The five candidates taking part were Matt Brolly, village president of Montgomery and a civil engineer; Victor Swanson of Batavia, a high school social studies teacher and Navy veteran; Lauren Underwood of Naperville, a nurse and graduate instructor; Jim Waltz of Gurney, a school board member and outside sales representative; and George Weber of Lakewood, a retired chemical engineer.

The forum opened in alphabetical order by asking the candidates to identify the three most important issues facing constituents in the district.

“To protect and improve upon our health care system,” Brolly said. “To invest in infrastructure, [whose good-paying] jobs can’t be outsourced; and improving on our education system.”

Swanson said health care is first on everyone’s mind.

“They want to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Second is education. It solves a lot of problems. We spend the same as Turkey and Mexico … we need to spend more on our children. [We need] to protect our voting rights. Barriers to voting [mean] less people vote.”

Appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, Underwood worked on implementing the Affordable Care Act. She emphasized protecting access to health care, followed by jobs and growing the economy.

“Finally, how to best protect our democracy,” Underwood said. “We are facing a proven threat in Russia meddling in our elections.”

Disease and misfortune know no political stripe, Waltz said, who ran against Hultgren in 2016.

“We have to be strong advocates for single-payer universal health care … and get money out of politics,” Waltz said. “Money is not free speech.”

He also said it’s consumers who create jobs with their spending.

Weber cited a lack of vocational training in the U.S. that leaves millions of high-paying jobs unfilled, as he spoke of more “prosperity for the middle class … these are easily solvable problems.”

He said the U.S. should copy other countries’ more effective yet less expensive health care systems.

“[As for] climate change, we know what to do there,” Weber said, noting he relies on facts and data rather than ideology.

During the forum, Brolly said he has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville.

The 14th Congressional District includes parts of Kane, DeKalb, DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.