Civil rights attorney Amanda Howland, who in 2016 unsuccessfully challenged Republican incumbent for his post as 6th District U.S. Representative, is making another try for Roskam's office. Defining herself as "unapologetically progressive," she's facing the large field of contenders in the March 20 Democratic primary. Those opponents include Becky Anderson Wilkins, Sean Casten, Jennifer Zordani, Ryan Huffman, Carole Cheney and Kelly Mazeski.
Windy City Times: What prompted your run?
Amanda Howland: I ran last cycle. I was asked to run because they wanted someone with name recognition, but they really didn't think I would do anything. They never saw it as a viable seat. Roskam spent $3 million. I spent $130,000 and I didn't have any full-paid staff until June 2016. I got 41 percent of the vote. So we mobilized a big group of progressives and grassroots people to make sure I got on the ballot and got on the vote, and I thought I di exceptionally well, given the limited resources.
Shortly after that race, I found out that I had a malignant kidney. I was in the hospital December 19, had the kidney removed the next day and, at that point, I was not thinking of running, except that I saw what was happening with the Trump wave. The more my husband and I talked about it, the more we realized that you need to run more than once to get the name recognition to win. So we decided to that I was going to throw my hat in the ring again. Since then, in Washington, things have only gotten worse.
WCT: What do you perceive attitudes towards Roskam as being like in the district? Why do you think so many people feel compelled to challenge him?
AH: What he's been able to do in the past is [play off the fact that] people don't look at his voting record; they look at him as a person because he grew up there. He went to high school there. His family's there, so everybody knows him. Now that people are people are starting to scrutinize voting records, they saw what he did with the Planned Parenthood issue over and over. They saw him with the Hillary-bashing. They saw him stand with Trump on various things that outraged people, and he helped write the tax bill that they jammed down everybody's throat. People are looking at him in a different light; people are saying, "He's not the moderate guy I thought he was. We better start paying attention to the votes." … The thing that's most different is, I've had many moderate Republican women that I know come up to me and say, "We are so sorry we did not vote for you last time. We will not vote for Roskam this time."
WCT: What does the Congressman really need to address when they get to office?
AH: The most important issue to me, right off the bat, is that we have suddenly become a nation that has no stability. We can't talk to each other. We can't be polite to each other. We can discriminate and say whatever we want, because the president had made it okay. That's not what this country was founded on. We were founded on [the concepts that] everyone is created equal and everyone has civil rights. I know, from my role as a teacher, administrator and trustee, that we respect those rights and try to bring people together from all walks of life and work together. This president has completely destroyed that, and that scares me.
If you focus on the actual policy issues, we have to do something with our healthcare system. We are the only industrialized country with the GDP that we have that does not have national health care program, and there's no excuse for it. Numbers show that we could save billions of dollars if we get them out of the insurance companies and put them into a medicare-for-all type system. We can also transition people out of jobs who're working for those insurance companies and we can cover our population so that nobody has to be without basic health insurance.
Also, we have become a nation that no longer values education, and I don't just mean STEM education or getting a four-year or master's degree. There are tech jobs out there that are the jobs of the futuregreen energy, mechatronics, geothermal, solar. We should be training people for those jobs. They don't need a four-year degree to do that. Those are the jobs of the future and we've kind of let that slide.
The third major thing is that this president and his cronies are putting us on a path to absolutely destroy our environment. We're already beyond the tipping point. Climate change is very real. … Some of it would have happened naturally, yes, but we're accelerating it. For Trump to pull out of the Paris Accords and write all those executive orders taking away regulations from the Obama era is just criminal. If we don't have an environment that's healthy, we're going to be paying more for medical care and have more birth defects. The whole thing goes hand-in-hand.
WCT: Is there any work you've done with the LGBT community?
AH: Absolutely. I have, at College of Lake County, with the students. I've been to rallies and marched with the LGBTQ community. [Attorneys and activists] Ed Mullen and Jacob Meister and they are big in the community. I have friends out here, in the Lake Zurich area, who are part of the community who are working on my campaign. I have always supported those rights, the right to marry and to live the way one chooses. That's not something I just jumped on recently.
WCT: What are the pertinent issues for LGBT folks in the 6th District?
AH: We've got a few things going on right now, and a lot of it has to do with the stability issuenow that it's become okay to be racist and homophobic out loud, people are getting backlash for no reason, and they haven't done anything. The people crawling out of the woodwork are giving them a hard time. A big issue is the bathroom situation in District 211. One of my good friends, he's not on my campaign team, but he's a precinct committeeman. His [child] transitioned. I watched her go through the process; she's going to be a sophomore in college. It was the right move for her. She's happy and I'm glad she's happy.
This fighting at District 211 over the bathroom issue, to me, is just ridiculous. You can make a reasonable accommodation without having anybody else be upset. I don't understand why they're spending all of the money they're wasting in court, when they can come to an agreement. The courts have already told them to come to an agreement, and yet they continue to fight.
See amandahowlandforcongress.com .