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U.S House Nominee (D-14th) Lauren Underwood on the Issues, Her Time in the Obama Admin and more

Provided by Lauren Underwood's PR assistant

Provided by Lauren Underwood's PR assistant

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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Lauren Underwood is the democratic nominee for the 14th congressional district race in Illinois. Underwood is a registered nurse from Naperville and worked in the Obama Administration as senior advisor and special assistant, where she gained invaluable leadership experience while working on the Flint, MI. water crisis.

“As a leader, your desire to want to do the right thing is not enough,” she said. “You have to have critical thinking ability. You have to have raw analytical skills. You have to be decisive. You have to have the inherent leadership ability. You have to be able to have a vision and execute operations.”

Underwood got her start in politics early. At just 16 years old, she was appointed to the Naperville Fair Housing Advisory Committee, where she gained experience working on local government policies.

At 32, Underwood is running for Congress for the first time. She challenges Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren, who has held the seat since 2011. It was a promise Underwood said Hultgren failed to keep that motivated her to run for office. At a 2017 Q&A hosted by the League of Women Voters, he pledged to protect healthcare coverage for people with preexisting conditions.         

“That kind of promise was really important to me,” Underwood said. “I’ve taken care of patients who rely on their coverage. As a nurse I worked on the Affordable Care Act, and then I also have a preexisting condition myself. So it was personal, and when he made that promise, I believed him.”

Hultgren’s subsequent vote for the American Healthcare Act, which studies showed could have possibly hiked the price of insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions up by thousands of dollars, was the determining factor for Underwood. “I got really upset, and decided you know what? It’s on. I’m gonna run.”

On Education

Underwood argues the lack of federal funding allocated to higher education has resulted in millions of students having to turn to high-interest loans to afford college.

“I’m a millennial. Somebody in my generation, Generation Z, can’t even think about retirement security, can’t even think about buying a home and saving for retirement because they can’t afford to pay their loan debt much less do anything else.”

She contends a solution to this problem could come from making improvements to the Pell Grant Program, such as making it available year-round and not just for the Spring and Summer terms. Underwood said the grant has not kept up with increasing college tuition, which has forced students to resort to a “predatory” loan market.

“It’s a priority and I’m really looking forward to at least making sure our federal financial aid system reflects the true cost of college for an average student.”

On Gun Control

Underwood argues “common sense reforms” such as universal background checks are what’s needed to curb the occurrences of mass shootings in our schools. She criticized Congress for not calling a vote on the issue.  

“Ninety-seven percent of the country came out in support of universal background checks. It seems to me that the 3 percent of folks who don’t are the ones that are sitting on the Congress.”

She went on to criticize her opponent for his close ties with the National Rifle Association, which she mentioned has donated thousands of dollars to his reelection campaign.

“He is so busy trying to please them that he’s turned his back on us. He’s supported those like Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which weaken Illinois’s tough gun laws. And it’s sort of like a race to the bottom to find the weakest gun law in the country and then make that the new federal standard.”

On Jobs

Increasing infrastructure investment would be a top priority for Underwood to increase jobs in IL-14.

“If we brought commuter rail to counties that don’t have it, DeKalb County, where [Northern Illinois University] is and Kendall County, Yorkville and Oswego, it would create jobs. It would connect people to the jobs in the city and help encourage growth in those communities.”

She also stressed the importance of entrepreneurs having adequate resources to start businesses.

On DACA

Underwood believes DACA recipients should be provided a path to citizenship. To achieve this, she argues “a clean Dream Act” is required.

“I didn’t imagine that there would be a circumstance where I’d get sworn into the 116th Congress and have to do this, and that’s what it’s looking like. It’s not gonna happen this year. That’s unacceptable. That has been a complete failure of Congressional Republicans, and it’s wrong.”

On the Opioid Crisis

Underwood argues mental health care reform is required to combat this epidemic. She talked about a lack of insurance coverage as a barrier to proper mental health care and said there needs to be an increase in investment in mental health services.    

“I would love to see clinics. Mental health clinics, therapists in every strip mall the way we have Massage Envys. Can you imagine if it was that culturally acceptable to go in and sit down and talk?”

On Reproductive Health Services

Underwood pro-abortion rights in contrast to Hultgren’s anti-abortion stance.

I believe that women should have the unrestricted right to the full range of reproductive healthcare services,” Underwood said.

On Climate Change

Underwood believes climate change is a serious issue affecting our society.

“We know it’s critically important to address climate change because it’s a major public health threat.”

She alluded to the adverse effects of climate change such as increased pollutants and contaminants, which can be detrimental to the health of millions of Americans.

“That’s why it’s so important to have a robust Environmental Protection Agency that’s properly staffed, properly funded and resourced to do its critical monitoring and enforcement work.”

Underwood encourages young people who may want to start a career in politics to get involved as early as possible.

“Join a campaign and help them spread their message. Run their social media accounts or you know, help them come up with memes, whatever. Like it’s all helpful. Whatever your talent is, there’s room for you in politics and we need your voices.”

To get more young people to vote, she says campaigns need to know their audience and talk about the issues that are important to them.

“I think it’s important to recognize the needs of different voters and how they consume information and making sure that we’re communicating with them in a way that they are interested in consuming.”

Underwood thinks the fact that she’s a non-traditional candidate will work in her favor this November. “I think that there’s a level of authenticity there, and we’re bringing just that realness to the campaign, and I think that younger voters can recognize that.”

Efforts to contact congressman Randy Hultgren’s public relations team for a possible story went unanswered.

 

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U.S House Nominee (D-14th) Lauren Underwood on the Issues, Her Time in the Obama Admin and more