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16th District Candidates Discuss Coronavirus And Racial Unrest

Democrat Dani Brzozowski (left) is challenging incumbent Republican Adam Kinzinger for the 16th Congressional District

The race for Illinois' 16th Congressional District pits a multi-term incumbent against a political newcomer in this November’s election.

The District stretches across 12 northern Illinois counties and has been represented by Republican Adam Kinzinger since 2012. He’s running as an incumbent this November but faces a challenge from Dani Brzozowski.

The Democrat said she moved to the district in the 90s after growing up on Army bases with her father. She said this military environment offered a strong sense of community, and after seeing the same environment in LaSalle, she worked in various nonprofits. 

“As I made a career out of trying to help other people and trying to lift my community up, what I came to realize is the challenges we faced, the challenges my mom and dad faced as they were just trying to do right by us kids, number one, they’re not unique, and number two, for far too many families those things are getting harder, not easier," she said. 

So, economic equality is a large part of her platform. And she said it’s important to follow up on Governor J.B. Pritzker’s leadership regarding the coronavirus.

“We’ve been calling for increased resources for education funding," she said. "We’ve been calling for hazard pay for essential workers. We’ve been calling for additional stimulus checks to individuals and families from the outset.” 

Brzozowski said a single stimulus check from the federal government isn’t enough and wants to eventually transition to a Medicare for All system.

"Coronavirus has really been such an obvious demonstration of the dangers of tying health care to employment, because at the same time so many people lost their jobs, they also lost their health insurance.”

Congressman Kinzinger said, in the short term, one of his priorities is directing health funding to rural communities.

“In many cases, people pay a lot of attention to the big cities," he said. "There’s a lot of population there, a lot of virus. But in many cases, the rural hospitals have been hit hard."

As for the economy, Kinzinger’s focus is on getting people back to work. 

“Not just in any job, but a job that can pay well, allow you to raise a middle class family with a good hardworking effort, a hard worker’s salary, and to make sure that when young people are graduating from high school or college, they aren’t moving to other areas," he said. "They’re staying right here in our district and raising a family here.”

And then there’s Black Lives Matter and racism. Democratic challenger Brzozowski emphasized economic and criminal justice reform.  

“I think it’s really important for us to be talking about income inequality and how we invest in vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color," she said. "How we provide opportunities for kids and adults who have historically not just been marginalized and oppressed, but brutalized by systemic racism.” 

She also wants to address systemic inequality, such as may occur with schools in minority neighborhoods.

“What kind of personnel do we have? Are there enough social workers? Are there enough guidance counselors?" she asked. "How can we use federal legislation to incentivize addressing these systemic problems in a way that is more effective than we have been over the past several decades and in fact much longer?"

Kinzinger says he’s open to certain direct changes, such as a recent bill by GOP Senator Tim Scott. But he said this effort was blocked by Democrats.

“Areas where things like qualified immunity may be too broad, we can look at that. That’s what Tim Scott’s bill did" he said. "Eliminating qualified immunity, all that’s going to do is ensure that you cannot recruit good police officers and it now makes a police officer personally liable for anything done on the job, even if it’s not an egregious error or mistake or anything along that line.”

Kinzinger said no cop would be able to get insurance for such liability. He also said people are too quick to anger.

“That’s like a natural thing now, especially if you look at social media. You say anything, you’re going to be labeled a racist, so everybody clams up, nobody talks. And this animosity in everybody’s heart, whether you’re white, Black, or anything else is ready to explode, and that’s what we’re seeing.” 

Brzozowski will challenge Kinzinger on this and other issues in the general election this November.