Data analyst Ryan Huffman maintains that he brings a more progressive perspective to the Democratic race in the March 20 primary, the winner of which will face off against incumbent Peter Roskam in the November general election. Huffman's opponents include Becky Anderson Wilkins, Sean Casten, Jennifer Zordani, Amanda Howland, Carole Cheney and Kelly Mazeski.
Windy City Times: Why did you throw your hat in the ring?
Ryan Huffman: Like a lot people, after the election of 2016, I felt like I needed to take more of a leadership role in creating the country that I wanted see. I felt that, especially in Illinois, which is deep blue in presidential elections, we don't have a lot of say in the direction of the country. I was frustrated by that and I saw, in this district, we were being represented by a Republican, Peter Roskam, who was enabling Donald Trump and bending over backwards to make life as easy as possible for him. … I felt that the most important thing we could do as Democrats was take back the House in 2018 to send a message to these guys enabling Donald Trump. That's why I decided it was time to get in the race and see what I could do.
WCT: Roskam has inspired this huge field of candidates on the Democratic side. What aspects of his tenure inspired you to run?
RH: He has definitely been on my radar for a long time as one of the worst Republicans in Congress. That's a real bad list to be on the bottom of. It's his general approach to leadership and how he represents the people, and what I see from him is that he does not have a courageous bone in his body, and that he has no interest whatsoever in representing the actual will of the people in the 6th District. The game that he is playing is simply designed to help him move up the ladder in the House leadership. He'll do whatever his wealthy donors want him to do so he can keep millions of dollars in his election fund, and he'll do whatever Paul Ryan tells him to do so he can get primo chairmanships.
WCT: What are pertinent issues for residents of the district that you'd like to address?
RH: One thing that people have been up in arms about, and rightly so, is health care. We spent the first half of last year trying to defend Obamacare, which made a lot of difference for people in this district and around the country. Thankfully, we were successful in doing so, but now that we've pulled out the individual mandate in the tax bill, there's a little bit more risk. Republicans are clearly trying to sabotage that plan. That's something we have to keep defending. But one of the things I think is distinctive in the race is that I don't just want to play defense on that. We've got to proactively push for universal health care. I'm in favor of a single-payer system.
The tax code is another issue. People in this district are really frustrated while the billionaires and corporations are making out like bandits on this tax bill. People don't like that, and don't like that my generation and my kids' generation are going to have to foot the bill for at some point. What really sets people off in this district is that we have one of the highest rates of people who itemize state and local tax deductions under the old system. Peter Roskam, who helped write that bill, made no effort to help protect those people to take those deductions. Now they'll be capped at $10,000, so you're going to have a lot more people paying a lot more money in this district to foot the bill for the billionaires and corporations.
WCT: One item on your platform is student debt. You are up-front about your student debt load.
RH: That is one thing that affects me personally, yes, but it affects a lot of people of my entire generation. It's not just us, but it's going to start to affect the whole economy if we all default on our loans en masse, which is what could happen. The debt burden from student loans on the economy right now is more than the mortgage debt burden at the time of the collapse was. … I look at it as two separate problems: First, What do we do for people like myself who already have this incredible loan debt and won't be able to pay it off, as in my case, until the year 2045? My plan is to work on more income-based repayment plans followed by loan forgiveness, so that if you work hard and pay as much as you can, based on what you make, then we're going to forgive the rest of that debt. The economy has not lived up to its end of the bargain when you invested in your education.
The second piece is, what do we do about kids who are going to college now, or are about to go to college? For that, it's really simple: We make community colleges free for starters, then we make public colleges and universities tuition-free. That's got to be ubiquitous, that people who want to go to college, no matter their background, will be rewarded and not be punished with this debt. We can pay for that with a fraction of the cost of this tax bill.
WCT: Have you done any work with or had any engagement at all with the LGBT community?
RH: You know, I really haven't yet.
WCT: Have you been able to discern any issues that might be pertinent for LGBT residents of the district?
RH: I think the main thing isand it's not really unique to the district, it applies across the countrythat the general tone of what's coming down from Washington is that some people are just inherently better than others. If you don't fit into a specific mold, then you are doing something wrong and you're not deserving of the same rights and equality as others. We're seeing bills passing allowing companies to discriminate based on [an individual's] gender identity and sexual orientation. We have to change the tone, and let people know that, if you are an American, you are protected by all the same rights as anyone else is, and that you cannot be discriminated against. We will not tolerate people discriminating against you, and we will make no law that allows people to discriminate you. People need to understand that people need to be free to live their truths. That's something I am very passionate about.
See huffmanforcongress.com .