The four candidates running in Tuesday’s primary election for the Republican nomination to the 15th District seat in the U.S. Congress are Chuck Ellington, Kerry Wolff, Darren Duncan and Mary Miller. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, is not seeking another term.
Each of the Republican candidates responded to questions from the Shelbyville Daily Union about the race.
Background: I am running on true policy experience, not as a bumper sticker slogan. I am uniquely qualified to tackle issues with our nation’s health care policy. As a practicing physician and licensed attorney, I studied at Southern Illinois University to earn a duel health care doctorate and juris doctorate. I have worked in health care policy my entire career and understand the issues in health care and how an overhaul of Obamacare can impact and positively change everyday lives. I am a primary care physician practicing in Arthur. I have seen first-hand what the Obamacare fiasco has done to our health care system, especially in rural America.
What is the biggest issue facing the 15th District? I believe the top issues facing our nation are health care, taxes and spending, energy and the economy. One of the biggest issues facing Illinois and our nation is Obamacare did nothing to fix the shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural America.
What will you do to try and change it? Young doctors need to be trained and practice where they are needed most. I will also work to strengthen and increase support for community health centers and rural health centers. I will work to create partnerships between training programs and the VA system. More teaching programs connected to VA hospitals and clinics will enhance the education and training of young doctors, increase the likelihood they will practice in the VA system, and improve access to care for our veterans. The Democrat’s war on coal is having a terrible negative impact on Southern Illinois. We have enough coal in this country to last 300 years. Further, coal is necessary for the production of steel. When we rely on China for steel production, we put our entire national security at risk. Further, when the coal mines closed down, many jobs were lost and many local economies suffered. However, carbon capture technology and near zero-emission coal plants hold great promise. They could provide numerous good-paying jobs and revitalize the coal industry and the economy of our region. We are blessed that President Trump’s tax reform has created the good economy we are thriving in. These tax cuts for the middle class need to be permanent. Furthermore, entrenched powers in Washington, DC, continue to pass unbalanced budget. We must amend the Constitution requiring a balanced budget amendment so Congress can no longer pass unbalanced budgets that put us further into debt.
How will you connect with constituents in the 15th District? During the campaign, I have learned the best way to connect with people is meeting them face to face. I don’t plan on being a suit in Washington, DC. As a congressman, I plan to be back in the district meeting with voters whenever there are not any scheduled votes in Washington. I want as much face time with my constituents as I can possibly get. I also plan to continue to use social media and digital platform to communicate, especially while in Washington. Constituents have a right to know what their congressman is doing in their nation’s capitol and we have very powerful tools these days to help us connect with everyday Americans.
What will you do to best meet the needs of all residents in the district? By making myself accessible and discussing with them their needs on an individual basis. If my constituents need me, I have no problem giving them my cellphone number to tell me directly. I also plan on setting up offices that will be within traveling distance if they need immediate in-district assistance and set up pop-up traveling office hours in each county to meet with constituents who cannot travel.
Do you support term limits for elected officials? I do. Career politicians like Nancy Pelosi who have been in office for over 30 years are the root cause of all that is wrong with America. I will fight for a constitutional amendment for term limits while in congress.
Does the tone of Washington politics concern you? What concerns you most? Every day I turn on the news and see Democrats and Republicans attacking each other, being cruel to one another, and not loving one another. I believe the Lord created us to be loving, relational beings. The tone and rhetoric we see out of career politicians and Washington insiders are not reflective of my values and it is not what walking with Jesus looks like. I will continue to pray for our leaders to open their hearts and to love one another again.
Are you satisfied with the direction of the country? Unemployment is at a 50-year low and economic growth is steady. However, if you listen to the mainstream media, you would think the country is on the brink of collapse. President Donald Trump’s tax reform has done more to stimulate the American economy than Obama’s stimulus package could ever dream of doing, but that is just one step. We need to make these tax cuts for the middle class permanent; the American people deserve to keep their hard-earned money. We also need to tackle reckless spending and unbalanced budgets continually passed by congress. I stated earlier that I support a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and reforms to both Social Security and Medicare.
Background: I am the Agricultural Expert at Tick Tock Energy, where I work with farmers, business owners and homeowners interested in generating their own electricity with solar panels. I maintain my Certified Crop Adviser status and manage a very small farm for our family. At an early age, I developed a strong work ethic working on our family dairy and grain farm. After graduating from the U of I with an Ag Economics degree, I worked professionally in agriculture 19 years in a career that took me to central California, Wisconsin (where I gained foreign experience working with customers in 13 Central and South American countries) and Indiana. Mid-career, I served as a financial adviser and learned how the financial industry functions. In 2010, we chose to return home to Altamont so our kids could live near their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Like my parents, I’ve been actively involved in my community, serving on church boards, Kiwanis, the Board of Directors for Altamont Lutheran Interparish School, and I am currently Vice President for Altamont CUSD 10, our public school district.
What is the biggest issue facing the 15th District? Lack of economic development and jobs. Good jobs are the lifeblood of our communities.
What will you do to try and change it? First, we make sure we’re putting in place policies that allow the people in the 15th District to keep more of their money here. I trust you to make better decisions with your hard-earned dollars than distant bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. I will support President Trump’s efforts to reign in burdensome federal regulations that hamper small businesses and individuals. We need to make the Trump tax cuts permanent and look for ways to lower your tax burdens even further. The goal is to free individuals to be able to start businesses, and established businesses to be able to grow and hire more employees at increased salaries.
How will you connect with constituents in the 15th District? Each member of Congress receives a budget to operate Congressional offices both in D.C. and in the district. I will place my primary District Office in Effingham, the center of the district, to make it easier for many of the district’s residents who may have need for a face-to-face visit with me or staff members. Additionally, the district currently has offices in Collinsville, Danville and Harrisburg. I’ll hire staff who are excellent in working with constituents to help resolve problems, as well as possess expertise in business and community development, agriculture, energy, health care and other areas of importance in the district. We will be here with a purpose to serve the citizens of the 15th District.
What will you do to best meet the needs of all residents in the district? Listen, and return “service” to “public service”. I’m not a career politician. I’m running because I want to help make this district, and our country, a better place for us all. I will work hard to REPRESENT you, my 15th District neighbors. It’s from you that I will receive the best ideas, which I will then research and put forward for legislative action.
Do you support term limits for elected officials? Yes, in fact, on Dec. 5, 2019, I became the first candidate in our race to sign the Term Limits Pledge to co-sponsor and vote for the U.S. Term Limits amendment of three House terms and two Senate terms.
Does the tone of Washington politics concern you? What concerns you most? Yes. Washington is overrun by an elite political class who is more interested in fighting each other in a scorched-earth battle for control, rather than doing what’s right or representing the best interests of their constituents back home.
Are you satisfied with the direction of the country? Economically, yes. President Trump’s tax cuts and reduction of regulations have provided a wonderful stimulus, resulting in the lowest unemployment statistics of our lifetimes and an increase in wages. We need to make sure this trend continues. Societally, no. A dangerous number of people are uninformed of the harsh realities in socialist societies and are therefore misguided in their propensity to think socialism is preferable to capitalism.
Background: Seventh-generation farmer and county treasurer, B.A. from Western Illinois University, member of OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center Foundation Council, Danville Kiwanis, Hoopeston Rotary, Vermilion Advantage Economic Development Board, Central Illinois Land Bank Board, Danville Symphony Orchestra Board, Vermilion County Precinct Committeeman, Vermilion County GOP Vice Chairman, Rossville-Alvin School Board 2007-2015, Vermilion County Board 2015-2017, Vermilion County Treasurer 2017-present
What is the biggest issue facing the 15th district? The people of central and southern Illinois want the government off their backs. I want to protect the rights of lawful, responsible gun owners and the Second Amendment from attacks by liberal Washington and Chicago politicians. I will fight to defend the sanctity of life and protect the unborn. I will join President Trump in his efforts to secure our southern border. And I will work to rejuvenate our rural communities that dot the landscape in the 15th District, helping to create jobs and create opportunities and stop the degeneration of our small communities and counties into relics of the past.
What will you do to try and change it? I believe in building consensus. It’s the way things get done. Some people want to go to Washington just to stand in a corner and scream to the closest microphone while never accomplishing anything. There are a lot of Democrats who will never agree with me on guns or life or border security, but there are plenty who would. Why don’t we build coalitions with them without giving up our principles? I would also work to pass a rural redevelopment program that includes infrastructure, high-speed internet, and incentives for businesses to invest in small towns. I grew up in Vermilion County near Potomac (population 700) and currently live in Rossville (population 1,200). I’ve seen firsthand how hard it is for rural communities to keep and grow jobs and to keep our kids and grandkids here. My first priority is rebuilding rural America.
How will you connect with constituents in the 15th District? It’s impossible to describe just how big the 15th District is. Thirty-three counties take up about a third of the entire state. So, it isn’t possible to be everywhere for every event. But I’ll be committed to staying in contact with every corner of the district. I will return as many phone calls from constituents as I can personally. I’ll hold town halls, tele-town halls, Facebook Lives, and have staff available to serve the needs of constituents.
What will you do to best meet the needs of all residents in the district? I’m committed to office locations spread around the district with qualified people working in Effingham, Danville, the Metro East and southern Illinois. I plan to have every corner of the district represented.
Do you support term limits for elected officials? Yes. There are too many career politicians who have taken us down the road of government dysfunction. We need to elect people with a track record of getting things done, fix problems facing government, then allowing them to go back home and back to their communities. There is no logical reason for the Pelosis and Madigans who have served 30, 40 and 50 years in office.
Does the tone of Washington politics concern you? What concerns you most? You can see the way that D.C. insiders are trying to keep their grasp on power in this election. A D.C. Super PAC has spent over $400,000 trying to elect one of my opponents in this primary because they know she would vote how they want — not what is best for the people of the 15th District. That’s why President Trump wants to drain the swamp of these kinds of people. I’m a conservative Republican who doesn’t owe anybody anything and who can’t be bought by any special interest. I wish other candidates could say the same thing.
Are you satisfied with the direction of the country? I don’t know how any Republican can look at the roadblocks that have been thrown in front of this President by the media and the Democrats in Washington and still see how many positive things he has accomplished. He has passed tax reform, he has worked to secure the border, he’s negotiated new trade agreements, and has appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court, all the while being trashed, discredited, and even impeached. Imagine what we could do if both parties worked together to support the President and country?
Background: BS in Business Management from Eastern Illinois University and a degree in Elementary Education also from EIU. I am married to Chris Miller and have seven children and 16 grandchildren.
What is the biggest issue facing the 15th District? The people in Illinois-15 are concerned about our border security. People are worried about the cost of illegal immigration and the safety of our communities. We must secure our borders and stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country. This must be done through a physical wall, as well as technology. We need to make border security a priority by hiring more border patrol agents. I would also support increasing fines for companies that hire people here illegally. Companies can avoid these fines by using E-Verify.
We do not have the resources to blindly accept everyone who wants to come to this country. No one objects to legal immigration. Immigration when done legally is just fine. What I object to is people who do not follow the law and try to enter our country illegally.
My son-in-law is an immigrant. He is a doctor who tried to get here legally but was not able to the first time around. Eventually, he did get here through legal immigration. Sanctioning illegal immigration is not fair to people like my son-in-law who followed the law and did things the right way.
What will you do to try and change it? One of the first things I would do is work with other lawmakers to build public support for sound immigration policies. I will either file legislation or sign on as a co-sponsor of existing legislation and use my platform as a member of Congress to put pressure on the leadership in the House to call votes on these bills.
Trump’s attempt to end DACA is a great negotiating tool to bring true reform, which in my mind involves a compromise for dreamers while providing strong border security and ending birth right citizenship for those born in this country to parents who are here illegally. I believe this is a reasonable compromise and should be the approach we take to bring about meaningful immigration reform.
In short, I am going to do everything I can as a member of Congress to get action on these issues. My priorities are practical ideas that we can get done with bipartisan support.
How will you connect with constituents in the 15th District? I already connect with the constituents of Illinois-15. I have been traveling across the district meeting with voters on a regular basis. I understand their concerns and priorities because I’ve lived them myself as a mother, grandmother, farmer and businesswoman in the district. I plan to continue to be accessible and to be visible in the communities in the 15th Congressional District as a member of Congress.
What will you do to best meet the needs of all residents in the district? The most important thing I can do is listen. I am running for Congress because I want to make a difference. I want to help the people in my district. I want to fight for lower taxes, better access to quality health care and better border security. I went to college in this district. I raised seven children in this district and helped manage a successful farm operation here. I know the people of this district and I know the issues and I believe my experiences here in the 15th District makes me well-qualified to serve in Congress as the voice for the voters in this district. Voters in the 15th District can trust me to be a strong advocate for the values they care about because we share the same experiences and the same concerns.
Do you support term limits for elected officials? Yes, I support term limits. I signed a pledge supporting term limits very early in my campaign. Public service should be about service – not a career move. The longer people stay in Congress, the more their focus shifts from serving the people they represent to making sure they hold onto their seats. How many times have we seen people get elected to Congress and go to Washington, D.C., and end up spending most of their time in Washington and not in the districts they represent? Career politicians continue to spend money we do not have and mortgage our children’s and grandchildren’s future. It is time to return to being represented by citizen legislators – not career politicians.
Does the tone of Washington politics concern you? What concerns you most? The over-the-top rhetoric deeply concerns me. President Trump has extended the olive branch on many occasions to Democrats. Unfortunately, when the President extended the hand of friendship – the Democrats bit it off. I am willing to work with the Democrats for the good of the country, but I am not willing to vote for things I know are ultimately harmful to our nation. I am not willing to compromise on my principles. Let’s work together, but I want to make sure that when any deals are reached the priorities I have – and by extension the priorities of my district – are represented.
Are you satisfied with the direction of the country? When it comes to the economy, I think we are headed in the right direction. Last month the economy gained 273,000 jobs and the unemployment continues at historic lows. But there are some concerns I think that need to be addressed. I am concerned about some of the momentum behind what I believe to be unconstitutional gun legislation. We can address violence in America without punishing honest gun owners. I will be an advocate for our Second Amendment rights. Additionally, I am concerned about the agriculture industry. This is an important industry to our state, and I will fight to preserve, protect and promote Illinois farmers. I have been endorsed by Illinois Farm Bureau ACTIVATOR.