Carole Cheney, a former top aide to U.S. Rep. Bill Foster ( D-11th ), is running for the Democratic slot March 20 to select the candidate who will face off against incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam ( R-6th ) in November.
Also a former lawyer and journalist, Cheney has several opponents in the primary, among them Becky Anderson Wilkins, Sean Casten, Jennifer Zordani, Amanda Howland, Ryan Huffman and Kelly Mazeski.
Windy City Times: What prompted you to run?
Carole Cheney: While working with Congressman Foster as his Illinois Chief of Staff, when they were trying to repeal the Affordable Care Actand Peter Roskam was a leader in those efforts in the Housethere were phone calls from people who lived in Peter Roskam's district. I took some of those phone calls. There were people saying that they were told that they were not taking messages in Peter Roskam's office. We took those calls. We listened to those people, and to me, those constituents were literally deprived of a voice. I found that extremely troubling. The failure to hold town halls is, to me, symptomatic of a larger problemPeter Roskam has been listening to special interests and not constituents. He is not responsive. For four years, as Congressman Foster's chief of staff, I did what Peter Roskam has not been doingI reached out to constituents, listened to their concerns and made the government work for them, whether it was veterans receiving disability payments or people receiving IRS refunds. I also have on-the-ground experience in taking issues of concern in the district to Washington and transitioning them into policy platforms, which is another important role for the representative. … I have both the qualifications and the experience to hit the ground running the day after the primary to both defeat Peter Roskam and be a public servant, which is what this all about.
WCT: What sets you apart from the other folks in the primary?
CC: Other candidates can say what they will doI can say what I have done for constituents. I left a position in a law firm; I had a major surgery and was unable to work for about a year and a half. I really understand what it was like to be vulnerable. I was worried that I was going to lose my house. I spent my life savings in that year and a half that I was unable to work. I decided that I wanted to be a voice for our community and make government work, and I spent four years doing just thatI've been a public servant already. With my experience in the law and in journalism, I also used to work for the Illinois Senate. I understand the role for compromise and rationality. No one else has that combination of experience and the ability to analyze issues and articulate them in the concise fashion that we need, and also, just make government work for the constituents.
WCT: What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in the contest?
CC: I am running a grassroots campaign. There are a few candidates who have been able to write themselves pretty significant checks. Given that I had that major surgery, I lost my life savings so I am not ready to do that. But I think people are ready for someone who is a grassroots candidate who is reaching out to the voters.
WCT: What are some of the items on your agenda that you'd like to address should you be elected?
CC: One of the major items is constituent services. The people of the 6th Congressional District have been deprived for too long of that for two long. The economy is also importantthe economic stability of families has so many componentsit is, for example, the cost of tuition. I have two sons in college and they are going to pay heavily for the loans that they have taken out. We also need to have the jobs of the future. Jobs are increasingly automated, and technology is advancing. What are the jobs going to look like in the next 30 years? An important part of economic stability is healthcare, the ability to have basic, affordable healthcare is, I believe, a basic right in this country, and what Roskam and Trump are doing, continually sabotaging the healthcare system is unconscionable. I myself am in the Marketplace, and I understand that there are improvements that we can make to make it more affordable.
I also think it's unconscionable what the Trump administration is doing with a religious freedom division in its human services department. My brother is gay and is HIV-positive, so the thought of someone being able to deny him healthcare services [is frightening]. That that could be acceptable policy is reprehensible to me.
WCT: What has some of your engagement with the LGBT community been like?
CC: When I was reaching out in our community, I found that, particularly in this Western Suburban area, I wasn't really finding any publicly well-known LGBT groups. I tried to reach out in the community to find some. I reached out to the Open Door clinic, which has offices in both Aurora and Elgin. I made an appointment with the executive director to find out more, and he told me that, even with their clinic, they found that people in the Western Suburbs tend to go to the city for treatment because they are uncomfortable with the stigma of who they are in the suburbs. So I decided to have an event, and I talked to Congressman Foster, who was supportive, and we had an LGBTQ panel in Naperville. … It was televised and had a high attendance.
WCT: What are some issues important to LGBT folks in the district?
CC: Being a Congressional representative has two components, the district and policy components. In the district, it is standing up for people in this community. There has been an issue with Palatine schools and bathrooms, for example. Having events where issues like that are discussed, even though the issues can be sensitive, educates the community. At the same time, standing up against things like the Trump agenda, with is anti-transgender [stances], is important. With the military ban, Senator Duckworth stood up against that, for example. Whether it's healthcare provision or discrimination in the workplace, Trump is eliminating all sorts of protections. To me there is an assault in this country against members of the LGBTQ and other communities. We saw, after the election, increases of bullying in our schools against children of various ethnicities. We are seeing hate crimes that I was not seeing before. So I think when we talk about the LGBT community, it's one of a number of communities that I believe are deserving of particular attention and protection right now.
See CaroleForCongress.com .