U.S. Congress, Illinois’ 8th Congressional District
Campaign contact information. Please include any or all of the following: website, email address, phone number, Facebook page, Twitter account, mailing address, etc.
Phone: (847) 749-2662
PO Box 8867
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Age and Birthdate:
Family Include as much info as you like (names, ages, number of children, etc.)
Education Include degree(s) and school(s):
University of Hawaii, B.A. in Political Science
George Washington University, M.A. in International Affairs
Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, Northern Illinois University
Doctoral Candidate, Public Health, Capella University
Assistant Secretary – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009-2011
Director – Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 2006-2009
Official name of your campaign committee (if you have one):
Duckworth for Congress
Previous Elected or Appointed Offices:
Assistant Secretary – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009-2011
Director – Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 2006-2009
Is there any additional experience you believe qualifies you for the position? If your race is contested, how does this set you apart from other candidates?
Right now, I’m living in what I call my “bonus time.” I should have died in a dusty field in Iraq when my helicopter was shot down, but my buddies saved my life. This lets me be fearless. I’m not worried about the next election or the next attack ad. I must be better and live a more purposeful life with this second chance. I will do what I believe is right for America and for the people I represent without exception.
A member of my family has served our country during every period of conflict dating back to the Revolution. My dad served in the military during three wars and was a very proud man. So when he lost his job at age 55, it was heart breaking for me to watch him struggle to support us. We were forced to move out of our very comfortable home and into a studio apartment, we had to go on food stamps to get by - so I know how quickly the bottom can drop out for a family. I put myself through college with Pell grants, student loans and a waitressing job.
The Army gave me a chance to climb the ladder and I became the Commander of my Blackhawk Helicopter Unit. Then I was proud to have become one of the first Army women to fly combat missions in Iraq.
As the Director of IDVA and Assistant Secretary of the National VA, I created and managed programs that got our nation’s Veterans back to work and off the streets. Within two years as the Assistant Secretary, we reduced the number of homeless Veterans in half. I know what it takes to get our economy going, get our people back to work, and create jobs for the future.
Even before I worked at the VA, I was fortunate enough to serve our country. I am in a unique position to speak out against improperly supervised government defense contracts and unchecked defense spending with credibility. I know that we can reinvest those funds into our economy and secure the future for the middle class, even while we support our brave military men and women.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
My first priority is to develop and expand our economy. I propose to do so with a combination of short-term programs that prime the pump of the economy and longer-term policy changes that establish the environment for an economic recovery and return to growth. Top short-term initiatives that I will support include infrastructure investment in transportation, schools, communications and utilities. Long-term initiatives include job training, business tax credits for research, payroll, alternative energy and hiring preferences for Veterans and those who have been unemployed for more than 6 months.
My second priority will be to address and solve the extreme rancor and severe partisanship that has pushed our government to the brink of failure. I am proud to have served and sacrificed for our nation, but today, it is nearly impossible to see such courage and selflessness befitting a Representative. I will work everyday to create a culture of common sense in a more practical, less partisan Congress.
Finally, I will work with both sides of the aisle to develop a sensible plan to balance the budget. We need to make difficult decisions about the excesses in defense spending and divest away from the inflated defense budget while still keeping the safety our military men and women of the highest priority I will fight to preserve critical safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare and others like Pell Grants that give everyone a chance at the American Dream. I am willing to take a hard look at federal contracting, the military budget and tax loopholes that let companies like GE completely avoid the corporate income tax.
How do you define a small business, and what can government do to support them that isn't being done?
Small businesses are critical to the success of our economy. Without the ingenuity and determination that I see small businesses exhibit everyday in the 8th District, our economy would be even worse off than it is today. But despite their hard work, small business owners are still struggling. They need solutions that will make balancing their budget less complex, hiring new workers a little simpler and making payroll a little easier. That is why I favor targeted, short-term tax incentives for small- and mid-sized businesses that create new jobs, and for any company that hires a worker who has been unemployed for more than six months. The US Economic Institute estimated that a 15 percent tax credit for expanded payroll costs could create up to 2.8 million new jobs over a year. Ideas like this one are a great place to start.
What steps would you take to reduce the federal deficit? If it includes tax increases, what taxes? And if it involves federal service cuts, which?
As a nation, we’re going to have to make difficult choices to get this country back to economic strength. We can’t afford to do nothing – or keep squabbling while millions of families continue to live on the edge. But just like a family trying to balance its household budget, we have to be smart about what we can and cannot afford. The deficit can only be solved with a multi-faceted approach and combination of cuts and revenue increases.
We need to end subsidies to the oil and gas industry and certain agricultural subsidies. Medicare must to be allowed to negotiate for cheaper drug prices, like the Department of Veterans Affairs does. We must make responsible, reasonable cuts to Pentagon and related programs. I can speak with experience about the spending of the Department of Defense, which has the largest budget of any federal agency. As a member of the military, I have the experience to be able to ask the right questions and push for better oversight of military contracts.
I believe the tax code should be rewritten so that the burden is divided equally and fairly. I do not believe we can ask working and middle class families, Veterans and low-income seniors to pay more taxes. It's simply not fair that our local businesses and middle-class Americans pay their share of federal income taxes, but large companies take advantage of countless loopholes and pay nothing. We must let the Bush era tax breaks for the super wealthy expire and ensure that giant corporations like General Electric, which paid no federal income taxes last year, pay their fair share. These loopholes must be fixed, especially in these times of fiscal distress.
What should the government do to create more jobs?
The federal government’s role in strengthening our economy and helping create more jobs is of the utmost importance and will be my first priority should I be elected. One of the first things I did upon entering this race was release a jobs plan – even before the President released his. The plan includes significant infrastructure investment, education, and tax credits for those who hire the long-term unemployed. I propose to create a combination of short-term economic programs that will immediately help accelerate our economy and long-term policy initiatives and changes that will ensure lasting growth.
Should the “No Child Left Behind Act” set different measurements than now for economically disadvantaged students, special education students, students learning English as a second language, etc?
Education is the number one indicator of individual success and is vital to our national and economic security. We need to invest in our public schools to make them better and more competitive. I am a strong advocate for accountability in our education system. However, the challenges brought up by NCLB have shown us that we must develop fairer and more sophisticated ways to judge the performance of teachers, institutions and students. I do not support unfunded mandates like NCLB or the unrealistic pressures that the current law places on teachers for performance standards without the appropriate level of support and resources
Early childhood education offers the best opportunity to close achievement gaps, and is a major differentiator between advantaged and disadvantaged students. I support programs like Head Start and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – as long as they are funded and supported appropriately and do not become unfunded mandates. Our school system needs to reflect the diversity of our nation. Additionally, our schools’ infrastructures are crumbling. We need to improve our educational institutions by investing in the budget-neutral FAST (Fix America’s Schools Today) program to repair and modernize our public schools.
Should federal immigration policy be changed, and if so how?
My father's family came to America before the Revolution and fought for Independence, but my mother is an immigrant who became a citizen in her 50s. My mother and millions of other legal immigrants have followed the rules. Their hard work and love of this country made us the strong, diverse nation we are today. Comprehensive immigration reform must require people who have come here illegally to step forward, admit to and pay fines for violating our laws, pass a criminal background check, learn English and pay their full share of taxes owed. If an immigrant meets all of those requirements while continuing to be gainfully employed, he or she would be allowed to pursue legal status. The fines paid by those seeking legal status could pay for the investment required to process the requests and ensure cases are handled quickly and fairly.
What are your philosophies on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and what should government’s role in those issues?
My view on marriage equality is rooted in love. While I was recovering at Walter Reed after being shot down in Iraq, my husband Bryan was at my bedside every day. Not only was he offering love and support during such a trying time, but also making critical decisions for me that improved the quality of my life to this day. Often, those decisions were contrary to what my mother would have decided, but as my life partner, my husband knew me better and made the correct choices for me when I could not. That is why I am supportive of gay marriage. Everyone deserves the same level of access, support and love.
As an EMILY’s List endorsed-candidate, I fully support a woman’s right to control her own body. I do not support any restrictions on a woman’s right to choose or her access to safe, affordable reproductive health services. I disagree with the Administration’s decision to block sales of Plan B over the counter, and would like to see it reversed.
Recently, incumbent Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh said birth control is “not about women” to an all-male witness panel at a congressional hearing on birth control. When Joe Walsh and House Republicans say birth control is not about women, the wrong people are in charge in Washington.
What should minimum wage be and through what method should increases be determined?
The minimum wage is one of the most important tools we have to help Americans achieve a high quality of life and create upward mobility. Minimum wage needs to be estimated on the local cost of living. We need to increase the minimum wage based on an up-to-date cost of living analysis, which incorporates the cost of housing, food, gas, electricity, and other factors that go into managing a household budget.
Bi-partisanship is given a lot of lip service by congressional members. Tell us how you would work with members of the opposite party?
We need to bring an end to the extreme rhetoric and partisanship that is dominating Washington and prohibiting anything from getting accomplished. Based on my past successes, I believe I can be effective in working across party lines on bipartisan legislation.
One of my top priorities in Congress will be to bring reason and leadership back to Congress. The extreme partisanship found there is prohibiting government from addressing the key issues and challenges facing our nation. There must be a balance of commitment to values on the one hand and compromise for the greater good on the other. Members need to, first and foremost, represent their districts. Too many Members are placing partisan rhetoric ahead of the national interest. I will work with any member of Congress who loves this country as much as I do.
In my leadership roles in state and federal government, I reached out and worked regularly with Republican leaders and legislators. As Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, I worked with House and Senate members on both sides to establish the state’s first Veterans Caucus. Through my work with these legislators, we were able to set up the Veterans Cash Grant Program, which has given out over $10 million in grants, helping to fund non-profits ranging from the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton to the John Marshall Law School Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic and the Southern Illinois University Students with Disabilities Program.
I did the same in Washington, DC as the Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs. I worked with Senator Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, on Caregivers legislation. I worked with Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator from Alaska, on outreach to Native American Veterans. I have a proven record of success in working across party lines, at varying levels of government. If I’m elected to Congress I will work with anyone who loves this country as much as I do so we can get things accomplished.
Do you think some or all of the health care bill should be repealed? What can the government do to provide more access and affordability to health care?
No. I support the Affordable Care Act and, in fact, I believe that it didn't go far enough. Ultimately, I favor a move towards single-payer and will work in that direction while protecting the ACA and the improvements it made to the Medicare system.
Who are your political heroes and why?
Paul Simon is someone I greatly admire. Despite being a progressive, he was elected in conservative Southern Illinois and remained a respected politician for his entire tenure. He valued equality for all. He was an honest man with the conviction and courage to stand up for what was right, even when unpopular with his party leadership. He was outspoken against President Clinton’s mishandling of the genocide in Rwanda.
I also admire Bob Dole and Ted Kennedy. Bob Dole’s dedication to our country is admirable and inspirational. Ted Kennedy’s commitment to the issues he is passionate about, his vigor to serve, and his bipartisan spirit is something I hope to demonstrate is Congress. The two of them worked together from different political perspectives to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act – a law that allows me to live a productive life everyday.
Following the troop withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think is the future of the war on terror?
The country needs to continue to oppose terrorism around the world. The war in Iraq was a distraction from the real threat posed by Al Qaeda and similar extremist groups, and the new focus on eliminating terrorist leaders and disrupting their operations has been more effective. We need to specifically and narrowly focus on threats and eliminate them with minimal risk to our country and our troops. We have to be smarter and more efficient about how we run the military so that they can adapt and rapidly respond to individual threats.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, sued successfully or had a restraining order placed against you? If so, please explain.