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Incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and her opponent for the 14th Congressional District seat, current state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, went head to head on several issues, taking differing approaches to ones such as police brutality, abortion and gun control.
During a debate held by the McHenry County, Aurora Area, Central Kane County, DeKalb, Elgin Area, Lake County ILO, Naperville, and Northwest Lake County chapters of the League of Women Voters, Underwood said she has been proud and inspired watching people in the 14th District embrace the cause of equality and justice and say “Black Lives Matter.”
This summer, multiple protests across the country took place after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Underwood co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which she said mandates common sense reforms to ensure that all Americans feel safe and protected.
“It requires police departments to collect data regarding use of force, bans the use of chokeholds. And it requires that deadly force only be used as a last resort,” Underwood said. “It gives our communities the tools that we need to foster a culture of accountability, transparency and justice to law enforcement.”
Oberweis said he strongly supports people’s right to demonstrate or protest, but said that “there have to be limits on that.”
“When it gets to rioting and looting and violence, that’s absolutely wrong. That should not be allowed,” Oberweis said. “No one should serve in Congress and say that it’s okay to to loot and riot.”
During the debate, Oberweis accused Underwood of failing to condemn rioting and looting during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times’ editorial board.
“Rioting, looting, destroying businesses, taking away jobs, these should never be allowed,” he said.
Underwood said Oberweis was lying about this.
“I’ve stated over and over and over again that we should not seek to solve our problems through violence and in fact, my record of protecting our community from violence of any kind is quite clear,” she said.
Regarding gun control, Underwood said she supports both universal background checks to reduce gun violence, and the restoration of the assault weapons ban.
“No child should fear for their life at school, no worker should fear a mass shooting at their job,” Underwood said. “Gun violence prevention is a public health issue, and it’s the responsibility of Congress to respond with a data-driven, evidence-based policy, like the bipartisan background check bill.”
Underwood touted being co-sponsor on an assault weapons ban bill, and her work on securing a $25 million to study gun violence as a public health issue, with $12.5 million going to the Centers of Disease Control and Precention and $12.5 million for the National Institute of Health.
On the other hand, Oberweis, a self-proclaimed “strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” said although he does support universal background checks, he doesn’t think more laws are needed on the books.
Instead, he said, enforcement of laws currently in place is needed.
“The best thing that we could do to protect our kids and adults would be to combine the five different databases that we have right now,” Oberweis said. “Because the background check doesn’t do any good if you’re checking one system, and somebody doesn’t show up on that system, but they’re in one of the other systems.”
Oberweis said combining these into one system would be able to show very quickly whether or not a person should be allowed to buy a gun.
Another issue that needs to be dealt with when it comes to gun control is mental health, Oberweis said.
“We need to provide more approaches to checking for mental health and to support those who are in need of mental health [help],” Oberweis said.
When asked about abortion, and Roe v. Wade in particular, Underwood said reproductive health is health care.
She criticized Oberweis on statements she said he made supporting limiting access to birth control, and outlawing abortion in the case of rape.
Oberweis did not respond to these criticisms, nor did he directly answer during the debate the question on his views on abortion.
He answered the debate moderators question by saying that it’s clear that people deserve choices with their medical care products.
A single-payer health system, he said, is not the way to provide good health care.
“I support giving people the choice. I don’t think that they should be required to purchase something in health care that is against their religion,” Oberweis said. “But I do support transparency, I support more competition, and I support letting people make their own choices for themselves.”
In turn, Underwood called it “disturbing” that Oberweis “couched” employers’ ability to offer contraception as dependent on their religious views.
This “runs counter to the policies outlined in federal law,” Underwood said.
On immigration, the candidates sparred once again. Oberweis said he is a strong proponent of legal immigration but opposes illegal immigration, saying it’s unfair to those who follow the system.
“We need to have safeguards in place to prevent that,” Oberweis said. “Is building the wall the answer? Maybe it helps, but it’s certainly not the only answer.”
While he supports providing a path to citizenship for kids who came here illegally and were raised in the U.S., their parents should not be given an automatic path to citizenship, Oberweis said.
“They could get a visa to allow them to stay here on a non-immigrant basis but not a path to citizenship,” he added.
Underwood said immigrants are vital to the cultural fabric and the economic success of our northern Illinois community and country.
She co-sponsored the American Dream and Promise Act, to provide a path to lawful permanent resident status to Dreamers, and is in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, streamlining the temporary worker program.
“I’ve also consistently held [President Donald Trump’s] administration accountable for their inhumane family separation policy, and I traveled to the border multiple times to provide oversight over this outrageous humanitarian crisis at the border,” she said.”I strongly condemn the racist rhetoric that’s become commonplace under this administration, the unconstitutional Muslim ban and the use of racial divisions.”