The election is not so far away. And if you missed the 9th district congressional forum between U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) and her Republican challenger Max Rice on Monday, Oct. 3, then we have it covered for you.
Below is the wrap-up from our reporter. And here is the link to the video, if you want to see it for yourself.
Remember, Evanston residents have until Oct. 23 to register to vote in the November election. Early voting starts at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Oct. 24, and people can also request a mail ballot until Nov. 3. Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The virtual candidate forum was co-hosted by the League of Women Voters of Evanston in conjunction with other League organizations in the nearby suburban area.
The two candidates
Schakowsky has represented the district since 1999, after Sidney Yates decided against running for reelection following his own nearly 50-year stint in the same position. Interestingly enough, she beat out current Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker in the 1998 democratic primary.
In contrast of generations, opinions and political approaches, Rice is a millennial born in 1991 and a resident of Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He works as an energy consultant, according to his campaign website, and he ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 ninth district Republican primary.
This time around, he was the only Republican candidate on the primary ballot, giving him the chance to compete against Schakowsky in the general election.
The district includes much of Chicago’s north side closest to Lake Michigan and a number of north and far northwest suburbs, such as Evanston, Glenview, Skokie and Cary. Below, are the highlights of what the candidates each discussed during the forum:
Incumbent: U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois)
Schakowsky is known as one of the most progressive members of Congress, and she is a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She also chairs the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, which falls within the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Addressing the audience at Monday’s forum, she identified reproductive rights, the safeguarding of democracy and affordable health care as key issues in the 2022 midterm elections.
She framed the election by saying that Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen have prompted a number of conspiratorial, anti-democratic and election-denying candidates to run for local, state and federal offices this year.
Plus, the current Supreme Court, operating with a conservative majority, struck down 50 years of federal abortion rights by repealing Roe v. Wade in June.
“This election is a pivotal election right now,” Schakowsky said. “I think it’s an election that distinguishes between are we going to have a real democracy where people have power, have freedom? And we want everyone to get out to vote. Reproductive rights can be saved. We can make sure that all people have the rights and freedom that they deserve.”
She also highlighted her support of universal health care for all and her vote just a few months ago in favor of a gun bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, the first significant legislation on firearm use passed by both houses of Congress in more than 30 years.
Schakowsky did say, though, that the gun bill fell short of full ban on assault weapons she wanted to see.
Among other issues, Schakowsky spoke about the need for a comprehensive climate action and climate justice plan as the nation struggles more and more with heat waves and natural disasters. She described climate change as “an existential threat” to national security.
And she also went on to address immigration reform, which has become a local topic of conversation with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bussing over a thousand migrants, most from South and Central America, to Chicago in just the last month. She called the current border situation a “broken system,” advocating for more established pathways to citizenship and a more welcoming national culture.
“We have to make changes, fundamentally,” Schakowsky said. “I’m for Medicare for all, for universal health care for all. I am for an investment in affordable housing in this country, and there are so many strip malls right now that are failing. These could be turned into mixed-income housing, lower-income housing to give people a place to live.”
Republican candidate: Max Rice
Rice participated in the virtual forum from Galati’s Hideaway, an Italian restaurant in Cary, and he immediately attacked the gerrymandered ninth district, saying he could not understand how two places like Cary and Evanston could wind up in the same congressional district.
In his opening remarks, Rice also said his first move, if elected, would be to drop his Republican affiliation in favor of becoming an independent, and he described himself as “nonpartisan.”
One of his main proposals, both according to his website and what he said Monday night, will be to restructure federal agencies by eliminating all unnecessary departments and positions, and relocating agency headquarters to places around the country. Moving agency locations could provide a positive economic impact to financially struggling communities, he said.
When asked about his stance on abortion, Rice declined to give a specific answer, though he did say he supported abortion rights in the case of rape and incest.
He said abortion should be a decision between a person and their doctor, but he also mentioned that he would want to see some restrictions.
On the environment, he said the loss of top soil and the continued reliance in Illinois on lead water pipes are major concerns, and advocating for clean energy and clean water would be top priorities for him.
But his main topic of debate on Monday was crime and safety, and he argued that Schakowsky had tangibly made his life worse by supporting Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Rice said that “crime is legal” in Chicago and that violent criminals are let off the hook because of Foxx’s policies, and he described the city as the “wild, wild west.”
In his last statement of the evening, Rice called politicians such as Schakowsky “a soulless bunch.” He also said that he keeps “hearing the same lies over and over again” about democracy allegedly being at stake in this election, as Schakowsky had previously said, and he brought up the concerns about voter fraud that Republicans have repeated for the last several years, despite little evidence of fraud.
“I think the two biggest things lacking in politics are good intent and competency,” Rice said. “It does seem like there are a lot of stupid people.”