In a crowded race for the GOP nomination in the 14th Congressional District, 26-year-old Catalina Lauf of Woodstock is making waves as an “outside candidate.”
After the election of Democratic Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in 2018, Lauf said she saw tension heating up within Congress and recognized a need for younger people in the Republican Party to combat a socialist agenda.
“We wouldn’t be in this situation if career politicians were solving it,” Lauf said.
She also expressed disappointment with Underwood’s comments about the impeachment of President Donald Trump and referring to Republicans as “racist” and “sexist.”
But instead of a career politician challenging the Naperville Democrat, Lauf said her grassroots approach is what the American public is looking for.
“This is the age of disruption in the political space, and I think everyday American people want everyday American people to sit down and listen,” Lauf said.
She faces state Rep. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove; state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris; financial futures trader Ted Gradel of Naperville; Kendall County Republicans Chairman James Marter; Jerry Evans of Warrenville; Danny Malouf of Crystal Lake; and Anthony Catella of St. Charles. As of
5 p.m. Tuesday, all primary candidates except Malouf had filed nomination paperwork.
By the end of the third quarter, Lauf raised the fourth-highest amount of money for her campaign behind Oberweis, Gradel and Rezin.
But of the 104 itemized individual contributions Lauf reported, only 23% were from in-state donors. In comparison, 96% of Rezin’s itemized individual contributions came in-state, about 72% of Oberweis’ contributions were in-state, and about 50.6% of Gradel’s contributions were in-state, according to Federal Election Commission records.
In her sophomore year, Lauf said she was home-schooled while participating in dual programs for college. At 17, she was able to get her associate degree.
She started college at McHenry County College, then transferred to Miami University in Ohio. She credited her two years at MCC for allowing her to graduate without student loan debt.
Miami University spokesman Claire Wagner said Lauf transferred to the university and attended from the fall 2011 semester through the fall 2013 semester. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political science and mass communication, Wagner said.
Out of college, Lauf said she worked for Uber in a public affairs and marketing role to help with the company’s image as it grew to become the biggest ride-hailing service in the nation.
After the 2016 election, Lauf said she wanted to work in politics and started to explore her options by meeting with Illinois Republican Party leaders. An opportunity became available working on former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign, but eventually she was appointed to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
One task she was assigned to in commerce was creating brand awareness for opportunity zones, a federal incentive established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for underserved communities. Those who invest in these opportunity zones could receive deferral of taxes on previously earned capital gains and other incentives.
“Growing up in an entrepreneurial household was really what they were looking for,” Lauf said. “Coming from Woodstock, I didn’t have any connections or any sort of special network. Everything I’ve built has been on my own.”
Lauf said a free-market approach is the best way forward to combat high prescription drug costs and not a Medicare-for-all approach.
“When you have a Medicare-for-all situation, you’re not taking in the entire picture,” Lauf said. “You’re looking at it as ‘everybody deserves this [so] therefore you get it,’ and that’s not [it].”
Last month, Underwood unveiled a five-part plan to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, the first part of which is to cap Medicare out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 annually.
The second step in Underwood’s plan would be to allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for the most expensive drugs and insulin. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that negotiations could lower prices by 55%, saving Medicare about $345 billion between 2023 and 2029.
Lauf, meanwhile, said government should not have a role in price-setting. Such schemes are at the forefront of what “underlying socialists” such as Underwood want, she added.
“We should have the right to know what exactly we’re paying, not just in drug prices but services too,” Lauf said. “The free market can solve that by being more transparent. People shouldn’t go bankrupt on exorbitant costs on life-or-death situations.”
Lauf added that affordable health care should include freedom of choice and should allow for patients to keep their relationships with their existing doctors.
On Thursday, the U.S. House voted in favor of a resolution formalizing procedures for an impeachment inquiry into Trump. No Republican representatives voted to endorse the resolution and two House Democrats broke ranks and voted against it.
Lauf said she doesn’t support an impeachment inquiry in any capacity and added that citizens want accountability and transparency rather than the closed-door meetings that led to a party-line impeachment vote.
“There are things that really matter that aren’t being addressed because Underwood and others are playing these political games,” Lauf said.