Jim Walz, the 14th district 2016 Democratic nominee, is running in the primaries against six other candidatesLauren Underwood, Daniel Roldan-Johnson, Matthew Brolley, John Hosta, Victor Swanson and George Weber. The Republican incumbent is Randy Hultgren. Walz works as an outside sales representative and is a Warren Township High School District #121 board member.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run again?
Jim Walz: Sitting on the sidelines was no longer an option. There are so many different threats that face us right now and I have been fighting the fight for quite some time. The person that changed my political life 12 years ago was Sen. Bernie Sanders and he helped me see if you want to see positive change you have to be that positive change. I got involved with Move to Amend to get money out of politics on a local advisory question, volunteered for many candidates and became a school board member. When I was asked to run for public office three years ago it was for Lake County Board but I am more of a national issues kind of guy so I decided to run for this congressional seat instead. My race is a total grassroots effort. There are too many issues at stake. I am in outside sales and I talk to a lot of people from other parts of the world and what is humbling and disheartening to me is people outside of this country know more about America than American's do.
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?
JW: I do not like to label myself but Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the two elected officials in Washington, D.C. that speak to me the most.
WCT: How would you approach the job differently than the incumbent? Will you hold regular town halls in the district?
JW: Yes I will hold regular town hall meetings. I think it is important to reach out to our Republican friends and neighbors because we do have many common interests and goals. I have demonstrated, on many occasions, that I can talk to people who do not agree with me and I do not see that willingness at all in Randy Hultgren.
WCT: What makes you stand out among the six other Democratic candidates?
JW: I am not running against my primary opponents. I am running for the people in this district. It is a good thing for the Democratic party to have seven candidates running to spread our message across this vast district. I think I have aptly demonstrated as a candidate and active member of my local community that I can reach across the aisle and that is one of the traits I will bring to Congress.
WCT: What are the most important issues facing the country and how would you address them if elected?
JW: Getting money out of politics and moving to a publicly financed election system. I was able to get about 138,000 votes in the last election cycle and only spend $20 thousand. I will not accept any PAC money and have signed a pledge committing to that.
Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels and moving to green technologies like solar, wind and/or geothermal sources of energy is vitally important for job creation and national security. I am also against fracking.
Protecting social security and other, what Republicans call entitlements, from being cut or eliminated. We need to lift the cap on social security so those who make over the present threshold of $127,000 continue to pay their fair share.
WCT: How are you affecting change as a school board member?
JW: I am spearheading two solar array projects, one of which is the installation of solar panels on one of our high school buildings and the other one is a potential solar farm on acreage that the school district owns.
WCT: Why are environmental standards important to you?
JW: Without these standards natural disasters will continue to get worse and the displacement of people from developed areas into areas with fewer resources will cause humanitarian and economic strife.
WCT: What grade level should civics be introduced and built upon in subsequent years?
JW: Middle school. We need to get younger people more actively involved in politics and are seeing some of that over the past two years.
WCT: Have you had any interactions with the LGBTQ community? If so, what were they?
JW: There have been counter-protests out in Geneva, Illinois at a United Church of Christ ( Congregational Church of Geneva ) and I went out there to ensure that parishioners would not be harassed by the Love Kills Pride anti-LGBTQ group. This church started a "Got Love" poster campaign to support LGBTQ people and that is why the group was protesting in front of the church.
Many of my campaign staffers are openly gay or are parents of gay or transgender children.
Two of the most moving experiences of my life happened in the past year or so. One was the Women's March right after the inauguration last year and the other was last year's Pride Parade. Meeting folks from PFLAG at both events were emotional experiences.
WCT: What do you see are the most important issues or obstacles facing the LGBTQ community and how would you address them?
JW: Discrimination and that needs to end. My wife is a teacher and she sees firsthand the bullying that has happened to some of her students. We need to give LGBTQ people a safe haven and schools are the first line of defense.
We need to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and protect same-sex spouses health benefits amongst other things.
WCT: If elected, will you co-sponsor the Equality Act?
WCT: What is your opinion on the SCOTUS Masterpiece Cakeshop case?
JW: I side with the gay couple.
WCT: Where do you stand on transgender people in the military including providing full medical services for those troops?
JW: We need to provide full medical benefits to both active duty and veteran service members and that includes whatever medical services transgender troops request. I am for transgender troops being able to serve openly.
WCT: Will you join the LGBT Equality Caucus? What other caucuses are you looking to join?
JW: Absolutely. Also, the Progressive Caucus because it is near and dear to my heart.
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?
JW: I want Medicare for All and it is my number one platform issue. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. We need to take the profit motive out of healthcare. I would gladly pay more in taxes if it did not mean I would have to pay for premiums, deductibles, out of pocket expenses and go through the stress of whether or not a procedure would bankrupt my family or anyone else's family.
WCT: What is your position on immigration writ large and DACA and the Dreamers more specifically?
JW: I am in favor of immigration reform that does not discriminate based on where the person comes from. They just need to have a desire to contribute to our country when they come here.
I want DACA to continue and the DREAM Act to be passed as well as a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants who have not committed another crime.
WCT: Where do you stand on the ERA and women's reproductive choice? What about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?
JW: The ERA needs to be added to the constitution and Illinois needs to pass it so this can happen. I am for a woman's right to choose, including having access to all reproductive health choices.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement is long overdue. Women have been living with fear of retribution and backlash in the workplace and elsewhere and that is wrong. I think this is going to be the year of the woman.
WCT: Are there any elected officials that speak to you due to the way they do their jobs?
JW: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown. Rep. Keith Ellison and I wish he would have been chosen to lead the DNC. I also like Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
For more information, visit www.jimwalzforcongress.com/ .