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U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and her challenger, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, expressed some agreement on issues relating to last month’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
However, issues of bipartisanship and government spending provided points of contention between the two during a Zoom candidates forum Tuesday hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce. The two are vying to represent Illinois’ 14th Congressional District.
Underwood said it concerned her to see a resident of her community travel into Kenosha, Wisconsin, with a firearm and allegedly kill two people and wound a third. She said she’s aware of different extremists who have been infiltrating protests and instigating violence across the country, which is why she supports an assault weapons ban and why she’s been working on bills such as the Safe Communities Act to help further address domestic terrorism.
Underwood said she has seen mass shooting incidents such as at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora happen during her term in Congress, noting she and other members of Congress had the opportunity to vote in favor of universal background checks and secure $25 million to study gun violence prevention as a public health threat.
“Our community has been touched by gun violence,” Underwood said. “I can’t tell you the number of families I have spoken with whose children were scared to go back to school because of the threat of gun violence and active shooter drills, and a sense of immediacy that they felt.”
Oberweis said he is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and also supports reasonable restrictions such as background checks. He said it’s clear there have been some bad apples within police departments across the country who have made unforgivable mistakes and should be prosecuted for those actions.
“Having said that, to therefore determine that we should stop supporting all the police, the net result of that becomes a situation where you get an increased vigilantism,” Oberweis said. “And that’s the worst possible thing that we could [do].”
Oberweis said he would be in support of protections for businesses and individuals affected by rioting and looting. He said he also has filed a bill in the state Senate to license police officers, which he said would give police departments a way to get rid of problematic officers.
“Unfortunately, sometimes the police unions will defend even the bad apples to the extreme, and it makes it difficult to eliminate those,” Oberweis said.
When asked what they would do to address recent violence occurring in Chicago and Kenosha, Wisconsin, Oberweis said he has spent a lot of time on Chicago’s South Side, particularly in the Englewood and Woodlawn neighborhoods, and has been working with Pastor Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church and Project H.O.O.D., or Helping Others Obtain Destiny. He said he believes Brooks absolutely has been doing the right things to help the community, citing the pastor’s efforts to tear down a hotel with drugs and prostitution-related issues and build a job training community center on the site.
Oberweis charged that Underwood is a big-government, big-spending Democrat who wants pandemic stimulus checks for residents and free health care for illegal immigrants.
“She wants to defund the police – I want to defend the police,” Oberweis said.
Oberweis said Underwood’s general viewpoint for issues such as health care is to just throw money at it at the expense of the government.
During the forum, Underwood did not provide additional comments regarding initiatives to defund the police proposed across the country, including reallocating funds from law enforcement to other agencies or total slashes to police budgets.
According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Oberweis Dairy LLC, in North Aurora received between $5 million and $10 million in April from the federal Paycheck Protection Program meant to help keep jobs that would otherwise be lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The loan was purported to save 500 jobs within the company, according to the data.
Underwood said the program provided $16 billion to Illinois businesses, including Oberweis’, and also helped chambers of commerce help local businesses. She said the popularity of the program shows that more investment is needed for these businesses and getting a better grasp of the pandemic will help stabilize the economy.
“I’m so pleased that we were able to work with you, Jim [DiCiaula, president of the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce and moderator of the event], and other local chambers of commerce to ensure that our chambers and farm bureaus would be eligible for PPP in the Heroes Act,” Underwood said.
Oberweis said multiple times during the forum that Underwood has voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100% of the time.
“That’s not bipartisanship – that’s total partisanship,” Oberweis said.
According to ProPublica, Underwood has a 93% voting record with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; a 94% voting record with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; a 95% voting record with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and a 94% voting record with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. She also has a 98% voting record with U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, both of Illinois.
Underwood said she has drafted multiple bills, including those that seek to lower generic insulin costs, prevent children from dying in federal custody at the U.S.-Mexico border, and examine the country’s reliance on foreign-based supply chains for medical equipment. She said all had bipartisan support, and President Donald Trump signed them into law.