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ELECTIONS 2020 U.S. REP. (5TH DISTRICT) Brian Burns talks LGBTQ issues, controversial tweet
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.

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Brian Burns faces an uphill battle in his fight for a congressional seat, going up against longtime Democratic incumbent Mike Quigley in the March 17 primary. Burns is a lifelong Chicagoan who works as an attorney.

Windy City Times: Give a readers a little background about yourself.

Brian Burns: I was born and raised in Lake View. I went to Mount Carmel Academy on Belmont, so I've lived in the neighborhood my entire life. I went to DePaul for college and, then after getting a political science degree, I went to the University of Memphis for law school, which is a great school and had great scholarship money. Also, it was great to get out of Chicago and see how another part operates. Also, I love blues and the music there is great.

After that, I moved to D.C., and worked at the Federal Election Commission and worked with a consulting firm. About two years ago, I decided to move back to Chicago. I'm ready to put down my roots.

WCT: What do you feel the incumbent is not doing right?

BB: There are three main things. I have nothing personal against Mr. Quigley, but I do think we need stronger advocacy for the climate.

Number two is Medicare for All, which he doesn't support. It's important for not only healthcare but for the economy. We need to get people to take risks and create jobs and grow the economy—and a safe and acceptable safety net is important, so I think Medicare for All is a huge, huge thing.

The third policy area that I differ with Mr. Quigley from [concerns] war and peace. We shouldn't get involved with other countries through warfare. He's on the Intelligence Committee, where he could be a strong voice for protecting civil liberties and be a check on the military-industrial complex. Instead, Mr. Quigley and other Democrats approved one of the largest military budgets we've ever had. I'm not suggested that Mr. Quigley supports Trump, but there are stronger measures that could be passed to be a check on this president—and not give him carte blanche to give him a military budget when he's in the middle of an impeachment investigation. I would say to the president, "I won't send a single dollar to send you to Mar-a-Lago to golf until you respect our subpoenas."

WCT: If you could ask the current president one question and he'd be obliged to tell you the absolute truth, what would it be?

BB: I'd probably just ask him to send out his tax returns and tell us what his actual net worth is, because I think he's a con man. People can see not only that he's a failed businessman, but that he's continuing to profit from his properties. I think there are a lot of interesting things we could get from him being completely honest about his financials.

WCT: Congressman Quigley—when asked to distinguish himself from you—said that he's probably been to a few thousand community meetings, and that he's never seen at one. He also said that he's been substantially more involved with the LGBTQ community than you have. How would you respond to those charges?

BB: I think the congressman does a good job connecting with the community and attending meetings. I would also point out that, for the past 10 years, that's been his job. As far as me, I do attend meetings—but I have a full-time job and I've done what I've can. As with a lot of people, it's hard to get by. But now looking at the district, I saw there wasn't a truly progressive choice there, and I wanted to make sure people had an option.

Regarding the LGBTQ community, I have nothing but love for that community. I grew up in Boystown. As far as being an activist, I have not been but it's not due to lack of support. It's just not something that I have been involved in.

WCT: So it's not that LGBTQ rights haven't been a priority?

BB: Not at all. I think the fight for equality and the huge strides the LGBTQ community has made are great for the community—and everyone's better off when they can marry who they want and when there's not misunderstanding or bigotry involved. I think it's a priority that people are treated equally.

WCT: There's also the matter of that 2011 tweet [in which Burns called a women a "cyberdyke," and which he has apologized for after articles ran this year]. Is there anything else you want to say about that?

BB: I want to make a clarification: I wasn't referring to state Rep. [Kelly] Cassidy when I sent that tweet—which I believe your paper and Politico said I did. [Note: WCT has run an addendum to its original article.] As far as the specifics of that 2011 tweet, there are no ill wishes or hate toward the LGBTQ community. The use of the word "dyke" is incredibly offensive and not something that represents who I am. I apologize [now], and I apologized when it was brought to my attention.

I think there is also a distinction between using a word ignorantly and using it to hurt someone. I'm not excusing the language, which was wrong, but the word [reflects] youthful ignorance and stupidity—and not anything more than that.

WCT: What do you think is the most important issue for the LGBTQ population?

BB: Ensuring that LGBTQ persons Is outlawed at the national level is a very important step. Beyond that, there's making sure there are transgender rights, and making sure there's a society that's more welcoming to everyone who's contributing to it.

WCT: What's your biggest advantage and disadvantage in this race?

BB: I think my biggest advantage is the policy ideas I'm putting forth. I mentioned those three policy areas, but beyond that I have an initiative called "Democracy 3.0," in which we need to have a more inclusive and responsive government—and allowing technology to make a better world. I also plan to remain in constant dialogue with my constituents. My biggest advantage against Mr. Quigley is that he's been a part of the Washington gridlock for the past 10 years, and he doesn't support the progressive causes of the day.

As far as my biggest disadvantage, it comes down to money and connectedness. Mr. Quigley, the last time I checked, had $1.5 million in the bank—and the majority of his money comes from PACs, superPACs and corporate donors. Unfortunately, in our democracy, that carries a lot of weight.

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