Matthew "Matt" Brolley is running in the Democratic primary against six other candidatesLauren Underwood, Daniel Roldan-Johnson, George Weber, Victor Swanson, John Hosta and Jim Walz ( who ran in the 2016 general election against incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren ). Brolley was a civil engineer and is currently Montgomery, Illinois village president ( mayor ). His cousin is transgender activist/writer Parker Molloy.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run?
Matt Brolley: The morning after the 2016 election, my wife Rosa ( whose family is from Mexico ) and I did not know what to tell our then seven and five year old kids. My 5-year-old daughter would come home from school before the election and say things like "Donald Trump does not like Mexicans and wants to build a wall to keep me from my grandma." That story is really hard for me to tell and I knew we would have to keep our eye on Washington, D.C. ,and this included the incumbent Randy Hultgren. What we are seeing over his tenure, and this year specifically, is he is not doing the business of the people in this district.
I am an engineer and by training we build and fix things and Washington, D.C., is broken. We need more bridge builders as opposed to bridge burners in order to get things done. We cannot get stuck in this partisan squabbling.
WCT: How would you approach the job differently than what the incumbent has done in the past? Will you hold regular town halls in the district?
MB: Yes I would hold regular town halls because it is the best way to get feedback from your constituents. One thing I do is monthly Mayor on the Move events around the village to various businesses to get feedback from residents. As an elected official you owe that to your constituents.
I would stand by my word. I will tell you what I will do and when no one is looking because they are busy with their own lives and do not have time to watch every vote and bill I will be in Washington D.C. advocating on your behalf. We have seen the exact opposite from Hultgren. He held a town hall earlier this year and had plenty of nice things to say but when no one is looking his votes are some of the most right-wing of all of our Illinois delegation. The district is ripe for a change and there are many people organizing to elect a Democrat to this position.
WCT: There are six other candidates. What makes you stand out among them?
MB: As village president, I have had to work with a wide variety of people to get things done. Many candidates talk about what they will do but I like to talk about what I have done ( protecting the environment, economic development and infrastructure spending ) and how I will translate that to my work in Congress.
WCT: Where do you fall on the spectrum politically? Would you say you are more of a centrist or to the far left or somewhere in between?
MB: I prefer to stand on the policies that I am backing, as opposed to labeling it. I am a pragmatic person.
WCT: What are the most important issues facing the country and how would you address them if elected?
MB: We all talk about various issues but it all comes down to one's paycheck. Of course, we need to fund infrastructure projects and they are near and dear to my heart due to my civil engineer background. You cannot outsource these good paying jobs. Middle class paychecks have not gone up and the GOP tax plan will not help those individuals, only the rich.
WCT: What grade level should civics be introduced and built upon in subsequent years?
MB: I am all for teaching civics to students starting in elementary school. We encourage all school-aged kids to come to our village board meetings. I had a 12-year-old girl propose an historical tour of the town so people could learn about where they live at one of the board meetings and we sent it to one of our historic preservation commissions. They liked the idea and implemented her proposal.
WCT: Have you had any interactions with the LGBTQ community? If so, what were they?
MB: At my last employer, we had two individuals who announced that they were transgender almost at the same time and around that same time my cousin Parker told us she was transgender. Those instances have been the most personal interactions I have had with the LGBTQ community.
I hope and feel that the younger generations will totally accept people no matter their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
WCT: How does having Parker, who is a notable transgender woman, in your family influence the ways in which you see the world? What does she have to say about your candidacy?
MB: She is all about standing up for people and I have learned a lot from her in this regard, especially since I started my campaign. When I mentioned Hultgren to her she sent me multiple tweets telling me how terrible he is and that I should run against him. Along with my other reasons for running, her encouragement was another catalyst for why I had to jump into this race. She has also tweeted out calls to donate to my campaign and get involved.
PM: Like a lot of LGBTQ people, one of my biggest worries about coming out as trans was wondering how my family would react. Some, like my parents, took the news really well; others, like a few stray aunts and uncles here or there, did not. I knew that Matt and his wife would support me being myself, as that is just the kind of people they are. Matt's kindhearted, empathetic commitment to helping all people, including groups that have been traditionally overlooked and ignored by society, makes me confident that just as he has been a family member I have been able to count on, his constituents will be able to look to him for an open ear and common-sense solutions.
WCT: What do you see are the most important issues or obstacles facing the LGBTQ community and how would you address them?
MB: Equality. LGBTQ individuals should not have to worry about being discriminated against in the workplace, housing, healthcare or public accommodations just because of who they are. That is why I would happily sign on as a co-sponsor of the Equality Act and push for it to be brought up for a vote.
WCT: What is your opinion on the SCOTUS Masterpiece Cakeshop case?
MB: We cannot have our businesses picking and choosing who they will or will not serve. I am anxiously awaiting the results of that case.
WCT: Where do you stand on transgender people in the military, including providing full medical services for those troops?
MB: I am very supportive of anyone who wants to serve in the military. Transgender soldiers should be able to receive whatever medical services they request from military hospitals.
WCT: Will you join the LGBT Equality Caucus? What other caucuses are you looking to join?
MB: Yes, and I am also looking into other caucuses that I will join.
WCT: Do you support strengthening the ACA with our current system in place or moving to a publicly funded system ( Medicare for All ) that eliminates private insurance companies?
MB: The ACA was a step in the right direction but it is not perfect. We need to reduce prescription drug costs and the price of doctor and hospital visits. Improving on the ACA is vital and I am not opposed to a Medicare for All system. We need to start with steps in that direction with Medicare buy-ins at earlier ages over time.
WCT: What is your position on immigration writ large and DACA and the Dreamers, more specifically?
MB: Immigrants have so many positive things to contribute to the fabric of the U.S. I am an advocate for immigrants and especially the DREAMers who have known no other country than the U.S. The DACA recipients I have met in DeKalb are productive members of society and to think that we would kick them out is un-American.
We need secure borders but a wall is not necessary on our Mexican border. Immigration is what made our country what it is today. I am supportive of programs that bring immigrants who will fill jobs and so they can get a top-notch education.
WCT: Where do you stand on the ERA and women's reproductive choice? What about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?
MB: Yes, I am in favor of the ERA and I am pro-choice. I am encouraged by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. People feel like they have a voice and can share their stories. This is a positive development. It is also disheartening to know that so many colleagues have been treated this way for years and they did not have any other option than to be silent. I stand with all of them.
WCT: Are there any elected officials that speak to you due to the way they do their jobs?
MB: Rep. Joe Kennedy III speaking out about healthcare on the House floor has inspired me.
WCT: If elected, how will your previous work and volunteer efforts inform how you do your job?
MB: Spending my days trying to find solutions to problems, which is what I have done during my career, by coming to a consensus is what I will take with me to Washington D.C.
For more information, visit brolley4congress.com/ .