Democratic challenger Sara Dady and incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger found some agreement and some differences on issues affecting the 16th Illinois Congressional District during their first appearance together Monday.
Both candidates agreed that the opioid epidemic is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by government, law enforcement, and health services. But Dady stressed that the federal government should provide ten years of full funding so local agencies can carry out treatment efforts.
“So far, we have not seen that commitment from the federal government; so, locally, we’re not getting the help that we need,” she said.
Kinzinger acknowledged the federal government has an important role in securing funding for treatment. But he also said it was important to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place.
“The community has to begin talking to young people, and say things like, 'If you take an oxy, it easily could lead to you overdosing on heroin in the near future,'” he said.
Dady pushed for a universal health care system. She says employers currently shoulder a significant amount of health care costs, including her Rockford-based law firm.
“The amount of money that we have to spend on providing healthcare is hurting our economic growth, our ability to expand. We make less profit so that private health insurance can make more profit,” she said.
Kinzinger disagreed with this course of action, suggesting centralized health care would be as disorganized as the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006.
“The VA system does not drive innovation," he said. "Innovation mostly is driven in the private sector and adopted by the VA, whether that’s different medicine techniques or anything like that," he said.
Both candidates agreed that action needed to be taken regarding school shootings. But Dady said responsible gun owners need to come forward to support gun control regulations. She cited the results of the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller.
“The Second Amendment is an individual right to bear arms," she said. "Just like Scalia said, just like every right in our constitution, it is not unlimited.”
Kinzinger said he supports some measures, such as bans on bump stocks and an age requirement for purchasing AR-15 rifles. But he’s wary of additional regulations.
“That’s why I’m an advocate for concealed carry, because ultimately, the only people we were preventing before Illinois had a concealed carry law, from protecting themselves, were people who decided to obey the law," he said.
Dady called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
"Fifteen dollars an hour is not a lot of money to the person receiving it, but it is a lot more than the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour, and has been $7.25 an hour, and Congress has never increased it," she said.
Kinzinger said the move would cause job losses and also criticized the left for peddling a narrative that working in lower-end jobs is a “curse.”
“If I mow my lawn, I maybe don’t like mowing my lawn, but I walk away and look at it and feel really good about what I achieved," he said, "This is why as a Congress, we want to figure out how we take people from welfare to work.”
Kinzinger says workers are already benefiting from the $1,000-2,000 bonuses some companies have paid out under the Trump tax plan, but Dady said that doesn't go far enough.
Dady runs an immigration law firm in Rockford and, in the debate, cited a need for reform to worker visa systems. She also praised President Ronald Reagan's 1986 immigration reform efforts. Kinzinger, by contrast, stressed the need for a secure border. He supports giving some undocumented workers in the United States a potential path to citizenship, but does not support amnesty.
- The event was organized by WCMY, a commercial radio station based in Ottawa, along with the Ottawa Times newspaper. You can listen to the entire debate here.