When I reached out for advice from longtime Illinois political pundit and reporter Rich Miller, he posted my e-mail to his well-traveled blog CapitolFax.com with the title “A little help?” I had asked Rich if he had any ideas, comments, or specific questions he thought we should include in an Illinois state senate and house candidate questionnaire. Within hours, there were dozens of questions from various perspectives posted. All of them are published below and the original blog post is found at CapitolFax.com/2022/05/17/a-little-help-3/.
Rather than inundate a candidate with all the questions, or alternatively choose which questions were most important, we invited each candidate to choose their own destiny, so to speak. We asked each candidate (whether running opposed or not in this primary) to choose the top five questions they found most important to their candidacy and/or constituents and answer by limiting their responses to 100 words or fewer per question. We also invited them to add their comments on any topic up to 250 words.
In the State Senate District 36 race, Democrat Mike Halpin (currently the incumbent District 72 House Representative) is running unopposed and his answers are below. Two Republicans are also vying for this newly redistricted state senate seat: Glen Evans Sr. and Mike Thoms (who is currently Rock Island's mayor). Sadly, neither Evans or Thoms provided any response despite being contacted by phone, e-mail, and Web site.
In the State House of Representative District 72 race, Republican Tom Martens is running unopposed and he chose to succinctly respond to all the questions at the Capitol Fax blog, which are all published below. Three candidates are on the Democratic primary ballot for this race: Gregg Johnson, Jeff Deppe, and Thurgood Brooks. All of their responses are published below.
We greatly appreciate each candidate's participation and willingness to foster an informed electorate.
CapitalFax.com Subscriber Questions
Pretty simple: Do you think the election was stolen?
Is Joe Biden the duly elected president? Did he win the election within the rules?
Kevin McCarthy called January 6 “legitimate political discourse.” What would you call it?
What’s your plan to get population growth on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities to be as high as on the Iowa side? How big of a priority is it?
What’s your position on the Second amendment?
What do you think is an appropriate level of state support for education (pre-K, K-12, higher ed; for each: too high, too low, just about right)? If state support is not where it should be (too high or too low), what would you propose to get there? (If too high, what would you cut and what would you do with the savings? If too low, what would you increase and where would you get the revenue?)
Do you think employers have the right to mandate vaccines as a condition of employment?
Will you vote for Mike Madigan for Speaker? (Oh wait. That one finally expired? I thought it would last forever.)
If you would have drawn the new GA map, how would you have drawn it and why? And how would the QCA had been divvied up by your said map?
When you retire how many government taxpayer pensions will you be receiving?
What’s your opinion on Georgism or on Pennsylvania’s split-rate taxation for property tax? Idea that we should minimize economic disincentive of taxing capital by making property taxes moreso about land values since land amounts don’t change, less taxing buildings (capital) and incentivize absentee landowners & slumlords to invest in their real estate or sell.
Where do you stand on the GOP embrace of white-nationalist replacement theory, the inspiration for multiple mass-casualty shootings in the last few years?
We have a constitution that includes seven articles and 27 amendments. Do you think all of them are important or just the Second Amendment? Why don’t you support the entire U.S. Constitution if you only support the Second amendment?
Do you think Illinois is better or worse off since 1982 due to the Cutback Amendment?
(a) What is one thing that you think the State of Illinois is currently doing well and that you wouldn’t change? (b) What is the number-one thing you think that the Illinois House/Senate can do right now to help residents in your district? (c) What is one issue that you think is important to the residents of your district that you are not typically asked about?
(a) How would you address the state’s pension debt? (b) How would you address the pandemic? (c) Candidates are known for saying they’re going to cut waste and abuse: Give us some examples of what you define as waste and abuse.
(a) Studies have repeatedly shown that companies make choices about locating operations ibased ion geography and the workforce, not tax breaks. Given that, how would you grow employment in Illinois? (b) The only region of Illinois that’s growing is Chicagoland, while the rest of the state is shrinking. Why do you think that is, and what can be done to encourage growth and investment in the rest of the state? (c) In terms of state policy, what was your party’s biggest mistake in the 21st century? (I always like to ask self-critique questions – the seriousness with which they are answered tells you a lot about how thoughtful and knowledgeable the candidate is.)
(No question, just a comment.)
If Illinois needed to cut spending to pay its pension obligations, name one or more specific programs you would cut funding to before others.
NonAFSCME – not sure that many of today’s elected officials could describe the pluses and minuses of the Cutback Amendment.
Did Joe Biden win the election fair and square? Yes or No? Repeat until answered.
(a) What areas in your district could benefit with additional state investments? What new revenue would you support to pay for those investments? (b) What do you think the role of the minority political party is in Springfield? How would you work with the majority party to benefit your district?
(a) What do you see as the future for the WIU campus in the QC? (b) What can the state offer to make sure the Rock Island Arsenal is at or near capacity? (c) How can the State help Illinois QC schools compete w/the Iowa QC schools?
(a) How many drinks did you have in the green room? (b) What is the likelihood that you will be indicted in the next five years? (c) What is your position on partisan election of judges? (serious question)
Illinois has both a high rate of infant mortality (5.26 deaths per 1000 live births) and maternal mortality (75 pregnancy related deaths each year). The United States as a whole has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. 17.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. The U.S. also has some of the highest rates of infant mortality (5.17 deaths per 1000 live births) and is ranked 57 by the CIA Worldbook with Slovenia at 1.52 infant deaths per 1000 lives births. What plans do you have to implement policies that will improve the outcomes for mothers and their babies?
(a) Do you believe there is a constitutional right to privacy? (b) Do you believe that medical decisions are to be made only by a doctor and patient? (c) Do you believe in gender equality? (d) Do you believe in equal rights for all? (e) Do you believe that what occurs behind closed doors, between consenting adults, should be the subject of governmental regulation? (f) Do you believe that a business owner has the right to impose their religious beliefs on a customer? (g) When you say you believe in “god,” which “god” are you talking about? (h) Do you believe in the separation of church and state? (i) Does a government have the right to impose a religion on the public? If so, which one?
I want to second the cutback-amendment question and would add whether they see a better way to structure the General Assembly. Proportional Senate with a by-district House?
Illinois House of Representatives District 72
Tom Martens (R)
3: The January 6 protest was infiltrated by the FBI to instigate what happened and the guards let the people in.
4: Cut the gas tax by 50 percent, cut property taxes by 50 percent, and get rid of the Safe T law. Huge priority.
5: The government shall make no laws prohibiting the ownership of firearms as per our Constitution.
6: We will never be able to spend enough money on education with a broken, corrupt system.
7: Restricting liberty and free will goes against our Constitution.
8: Madigan is a crook and should be in jail.
9: Voting maps should follow city and county boundaries an be common sense.
11: Flat rate taxes insure fair rates and everyone has skin in the game.
12: America First is not white nationalism.
13: I support the Constitution as written.
14: Less representation is never good.
15: (a) Illinois does not tax pensions or social security benefits; (b) Lower property taxes, lower gas taxes and secure elections; (c) Fixing the Federal Government using the Convention of States
16: (a) The pension debt can only be fixed by amending the Illinois Constitution to reduce benefits to reasonable levels; (b) Give the people guidelines not illegal mandates; (c) Gerrymandering voting maps, lifetime pensions for less than one year of teaching service, legislative Inspector Generals office has to ask the legislators for permission to publish results of investigations and becoming a lobbyist one day after you leave office.
17: (a) Lower property taxes and deregulation on businesses is the best way to bring jobs to Illinois; (b) Chicago has the highest concentration of people and transport infrastructure. Sweetheart deals on taxes and land help give Chicago the advantage; (c) Many in the Republican Party are Globalists. They love cheap foreign labor and favorable tax breaks.
19: One program to cut to help pay for pensions would be to end any aid to Illegal aliens living in our state.
20: Again, less representation is never good.
21: Joe Biden did not win the 2020 Election.
22: (a) We need better streets and parking in our district. The revenue would come from cutting benefits to illegal immigrants; (b) Since the Democratic Party has adopted Socialism as their party platform, there’s nowhere to negotiate with them.
23: (a) If WIU can’t attract students then changes need to be made; (b) Lowering property taxes, gas taxes, and more things to do on the Illinois side of the river can make a difference; (c) If we mimic what the Iowa schools are doing then it would follow that Illinois would improve.
24: (a) N/A; (b) Zero; (c) Partisan judges have no place in our judicial system.
25: We first need to know the causes for the death rates, then we can make an informed decision.
26: (a) It’s not a Constitutional Right by itself, but it is implied; (b) Yes; (c) Gender equality is great as long as the person is qualified to do the job; (d) Equal rights do not mean equal outcome; (e) Yes; (f) Yes; (g) Each religion has their version of God, just don’t tell what to believe; (h) There is no separation of Church and State in our Constitution; (i) The Constitution prohibits any governmental body to force any religion on anyone.
Gregg Johnson (D)
There are a lot of detailed questions, also some real softballs there. Obviously, I’m going to take the stance that Joe Biden was duly elected in a fair election. I guess I’m going to try and focus on just five points that I’m really talking about on the trail that will correspond to the questions, hopefully.
First, I have no intention of taking or staying long enough for a pension.
Second, as far as education funding, the state legislature invested heavily into education at all levels this coming year, this will need to continue for a few more years to make up for its disinvestment for decades.
The third point I would make is that the state has done a great job of prioritizing infrastructure spending. The return of investment in taxpayer spending always peaks with infrastructure. That being said, we can have the most pristine roads and bridges in the world, if we don’t address the worker shortage and start growing our population, then that investment becomes a moot point. Questions four and five tend to link up for me. I think that the WIU campus gives us an opportunity to grow our population, keep many of our kids here, and develop along the river. A few years ago I talked about how Pittsburgh had redefined itself from the Steel City to a City known for being a medical and technology hub. The Allegheny River provides a spectacular backdrop for the success. We have the Mississippi River and it’s proximity to the campus provides us with opportunities to grow. A couple of ideas would be to address teacher shortages and the lack of mental health providers by providing scholarships, loan forgiveness in exchange for residency requirements to serve the area locally. I would love to see an expansion of River Drive through to Rock Island and work with the City of Moline on the plan to make our side of the new I-74 Bridge as beautiful as it is across the river.
On a personal note, the mental-health crisis is growing and we need to address it yesterday. I am the only parent in this race and the two things that I hear constantly in our district are how parents are tired of seeing kids graduate high school, and then build their lives elsewhere. Our daughter is now 10 and when she graduates high school, I want her to have the opportunity to build her life here. If she chooses to leave, I want it to be because she chose to, not because we failed to create opportunities for her generation.
I have been endorsed by Citizens Action, Equality Illinois, Personal PAC, AFSCME, and the IEA (Illinois Teachers Association). All of these groups have determined that I am the strongest voice across the board to replace Mike Halpin. As a non-incumbent to have them get involved and endorse our campaign to give voice to those living in poverty, those in the LGBTQ Community, women's health care and reproductive rights, and our kids and teachers, it’s an honor to have their endorsements.
Jeff Deppe (D)
I was raised here in the Quad Cities by a single working mother who has shaped my life both through the wisdom of her experience and through the kindness of her example.
Work hard. My mom continues to work today, and she taught me the value there is in work. I’ve spent the last 28 years as a union Laborer. I get up every day before dawn to go to work and even on the toughest days, I am grateful, and I do what I can to help my brothers and sisters on the job stay safe and earn a fair wage. I also help young people learn trades so they can raise families here in our community.
Give back. My mom volunteers to help those in need. It has inspired me to help build houses for the less fortunate, to help make the homes of disabled and aging veterans accessible, and to work with Arrowhead Youth Services, to keep at-risk young people away from trouble and out of the criminal-justice system.
Do what’s right, even when it’s not popular. As a county board member, I helped reduce the size of the board and cut benefits for part-time politicians. It wasn’t popular with the political in-crowd, but it eased the burden on regular people and made government a little more efficient.
I’m running for State Representative because these lessons drive me, and I believe in my heart that I can help working families, seniors, and our young people.
Q1. The only region of Illinois that’s growing is Chicagoland, while the rest of the state is shrinking. Why do you think that is, and what can be done to encourage growth and investment in the rest of the state?
There is no single approach. However, there are three critical steps I believe we can take to rebuild and rebound.
One: Rebuild our infrastructure. If we want to attract investment, we’re going to need to ensure our roads, bridges, ports and levees are safe and modern.
Two: Ensure a ready workforce. I work with a program that pairs young people with skills training for careers in building trades. We must have young people prepared to get to work in good careers.
Three: Ensure excellent schools. Businesses invest in communities where they want to live. It starts with good schools.
Q2. How can the State help Illinois QC schools compete w/the Iowa QC schools?
As a proud graduate of UTHS, I believe first and foremost we must ensure our schools are fully funded and our teachers have the resources they need. This means not sending public education funds to for profit schools. It means not sacrificing standards.
But I also believe we must ensure there are opportunities for all of our children where they are. Some will go to college. But some will not, and that’s okay. They should have opportunities to learn the skilled trades we will desperately need in the years to come.
Q3. Do you believe there is a constitutional right to privacy? Do you believe in equal rights for all?
I put these two together. Even as many states and the United States Supreme Court have eroded rights, our state has led the way in protecting privacy and equality.
I believe a woman’s reproductive health is a private matter, as originally outlined in Roe v. Wade, and I support the steps Illinois has taken to secure those rights.
Similarly, in my professional life, as well as in my volunteer endeavors, I stand on the side of equal rights for all, and will continue to support equal rights as a State Representative.
Q4. What is one thing that you think the State of Illinois is currently doing well and that you wouldn’t change?
As a union Laborer, I am keenly aware of the importance of maintaining safe, modern roads, bridges, levees, ports, and other infrastructure needs. After more than a decade without an infrastructure plan, Illinois finally passed one and I believe it is an important step in our state recovering the losses of the last decade. In addition to directly and indirectly creating good paying jobs, modernized infrastructure incentivizes industries to invest in our state and our region.
As State Representative, I will fight to make sure we never go this long without an infrastructure plan.
Q5: Candidates are known for saying they’re going to cut waste and abuse; give us some examples of what you define as waste and abuse.
Rather than tell you what I think, I'll tell you what I did. On the County Board, I helped cut the number of politicians on the board. In addition, I helped to slash health and pension benefits for part-time politicians. And I voted to pass the County’s strongest policy to fight nepotism.
I firmly believe that when we put our egos aside and decide to do what’s right we can find ways to make government more transparent and more effective in its ability to do good, especially for seniors, working people, and young people.
Thurgood Brooks (D)
Q: Illinois has both a high rate of infant mortality (5.26 deaths per 1000 live births) and maternal mortality (75 pregnancy related deaths each year). The United States as a whole has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. 17.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. The U.S. also has some of the highest rates of infant mortality (5.17 deaths per 1000 live births) and is ranked 57 by the CIA Worldbook with Slovenia at 1.52 infant deaths per 1000 lives births. What plans do you have to implement policies that will improve the outcomes for mothers and their babies?
A: We must drastically improve maternal and infant health outcomes in Illinois. My plan for policy implementation would be to do what many other developed nations have done and that is create a universal healthcare system in Illinois. Common sense and data make clear that a single-payer healthcare system could do key things like give Illinois women reliable and easy access to quality prenatal, postpartum and pediatric services, eliminate financial and social barriers to those services. We could look at incentives for improved outcomes. We must address the racial disparities in maternal and infant health which I understand to be unacceptably high even when controlling for income. Illinois women and infants deserve better.
Q: How can the State help Illinois QC schools compete w/the Iowa QC schools?
A: First, no one should assume that Illinois QC schools are underperforming compared to Iowa QC schools. Data doesn’t necessarily reflect that. Illinois QC high schools continue to graduate students at similar rates, send students on to graduate from universities and trades schools, and our students are routinely in the pack when it comes to the number of National Honor Merit Scholars in the QC area. This is not to say Illinois can not and should not strive to improve and I will fight to properly fund our schools and ensure facts are reflected in our curriculum. What the quantitative data can’t show are the human elements and assets within our district that make us, our students and our schools in Illinois exceptional. The Rock Island/Milan school district is the most diverse school district in the State of Illinois. Moline and East Moline/Silvis schools have unique programs and represent a diverse student body as well. Where there’s diversity there is lasting strength. There is space to challenge assumptions and biases, to cultivate a higher EQ along with your IQ, to learn to work together to solve problems and stand in and up for peers even when they don’t look like you or have the same family background. We have to start believing and sharing what we already know, which is that we are strong in academic outcomes and stronger because of who our students become.
Q: Pretty simple: Do you think the election was stolen?
A: No. Our country has the most secure and safe elections worldwide. No evidence suggests otherwise for 2020. What I think is important for me to say to this is that while there are deep divisions in our current politics, I believe we can come together and that we have to come together to get big things done here in our district and across Illinois. In my mayoral campaign, I received support from many non democrats and that theme continues in this race. As I knock on doors across the district, I am finding people who don’t always align with my stance on everything, but we are able to find common ground on many things and I get support from a lot of those people at the end of the day. That said – we do have to start with a baseline of accepting facts as facts. From there I know we can come together.
Q: What’s your position on the Second amendment?
A: I believe in the right to bear arms. I personally have a FOID card and growing up in the QCA I know many outdoorsmen and women. Most of our constitutional rights have limits. Most of those limits come from an attempt to balance those rights with the rights of another human, another citizen, friend, neighbor. Gun ownership and use is no different. The lives of our elderly in grocery stores and our children in school and our sense of safety wherever we go depends on balancing that right. So I support common sense evidence based policies like background checks on all gun sales – which the overwhelming majority of Americans support. I support policies like creating alerts for failed background checks and instituting waiting periods. Keeping guns out of and away from schools. Promoting responsible gun ownership. Which also means gun safety education. Placing restrictions on assault weapons including restricting the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons and requiring strict ownership registration.
Q: What is the number-one thing you think that the Illinois House/Senate can do right now to help residents in your district?
A: I believe we have the opportunity to provide all residents with proper healthcare. One of my campaigns highest priorities is to fight to have Illinois become the first State with a single healthcare option. We have to create a universal health care system. We don’t need an insurance system, we need a care system, including meaningful and accessible mental health care. We need health justice here in Illinois. We need affordable prescription drugs like insulin. No one should go bankrupt paying for health care. Small businesses and unions need relief for their members and employees.
Illinois State Senate District 36
Mike Halpin (D):
Q: Pretty simple: Do you think the election was stolen?
A: The 2020 election was not stolen. The election was certainly close, reflecting how deeply divided we are. It’s my goal to try to unite voters in western Illinois behind a candidate with integrity and the work ethic to get the job done.
Q: What’s your plan to get population growth on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities to be as high as on the Iowa side?
A: Investment. I am a champion for new investment in the Illinois Quad Cities. I sponsored two key pieces of legislation this year, the Homegrown Business Act and MICRO Act. The Homegrown Business Act helps border communities expand business opportunities by opening communication between the state, local governments and small businesses. Meanwhile, the MICRO Act incentivizes bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas.
Q: The only region of Illinois that’s growing is Chicagoland, while the rest of the state is shrinking. Why do you think that is, and what can be done to encourage growth and investment in the rest of the state?
A: For years, I have been sounding the alarm about companies shipping jobs overseas. As a staffer for former congressman Lane Evans, I’ve seen what happened when Maytag left Galesburg. This pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of our supply chains, and it’s past time to bring these jobs back to the U.S.
Q: How can the State help Illinois QC schools compete w/the Iowa QC schools?
A: We have already taken the largest step, by starting to separate school funding from property taxes. We’ve increased funding for local schools over the past six years by tens of millions of dollars, including in underserved areas.
Q: What is one issue that you think is important to the residents of your district that you are not typically asked about?
A: An important issue is pushing back against the perception that Illinois is going in the wrong direction. We’ve passed a balanced budget for the past six years, had six credit upgrades in the last year and a half, put extra money towards pensions, paid off billions of dollars in debt, eliminated the bill backlog left by the disastrous Rauner administration, and had enough left over this year to provide $1.8 billion dollars in tax relief for families across the state.