Election day is just around the corner. Learn more about the candidates and the issues by using this voter’s guide for the November 6th midterm election.
Winnebago County Sheriff
The race for Winnebago County Sheriff is a re-match for two of the candidates, as incumbent Sheriff Gary Caruana takes on his challenger from four years ago, retired Deputy Chief Bob Springer.
Both men agree that the budget is one of the biggest challenges facing the Sheriff’s Department.
The Winnebago County Board asked Caruana to cut $4.3 million from his 2018 budget, a move which, at times, put him at odds with the board and drew criticism from his opponent.
“I think the Sheriff, the current sheriff, is trying to build a department that he wants and then goes to the board and says, ‘Fund me, whether you can or not.’ And I’m saying, I’m the kind of person that, I’m waiting for the board to give me my budget and I’m going to try and build a department around that,” Springer said. “We’ve never had another elected official act that irresponsible with a budget.”
Caruana said, “He says…I was defiant. There was no defiancy (sp) in me not getting down to it that year. Like I said, over this next year we’re gonna realize that. It’s about being practical. That’s one of the practicalities. What is your human cost? Human cost and protecting the people and the service. There’s a lot of service elements that we have to deal with.”
Caruana says he believes in a regional approach to policing, adding he has a great working relationship with Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea.
“We’re on the Joint Task Force together,” Caruana said. “[We] have a great relationship with the city, Dan and I. [We] actually did the ‘Brothers in Blue’ thing, which made us closer and we got the message out that, hey, we’re working together.”
But Springer believes there’s more that can be done.
“How about working with Rockford? How about taking a deputy and putting it in a car with a city officer? It’s called a ‘force multiplier.’ Instead of just unilaterally taking ten deputies and putting them in Rockford, they don’t answer calls. They really don’t affect Rockford’s crime rate at all,” Springer said. “Rockford has a very good 300+ man department with a very good chief. They’re responsible for Rockford, but as sheriff, I should support them and help them solve their problems.”
Caruana says he has inherited a culture that had been in place for more than 30 years, and he says change is difficult.
“We’re developing a different model, a different mouse trap, so to speak, that’s going to work better,” Caruana said. “Am I hurting some feelings and stepping on some people’s feet as I am changing that culture? Yeah.”
16th Congressional District
The 16th Congressional District has an interesting makeup. It used to stretch from the Mississippi River east into McHenry County, and it included all of Rockford.
After the 2010 Census, politicians re-drew the boundaries, splitting the city in half roughly east of Prospect and north of Harrison Avenue.
Now, the District stretches as far south as Pontiac and as far east as the Indiana border.
No one knows that better than the two candidates running to represent the district.
“Running for office is part of our public service as citizens,” said Democratic candidate Sara Dady.
“I saw this as an extension of service, and a way to continue to serve the country I love,” said Republican Adam Kinzinger.
Voters elected Kinzinger to congress in 2010, and he has represented the 16th District since 2013.
Kinzinger is proud of the country’s push to rebuild the military and how strong the economy has become.
Unemployment is at a record low and the stock market, while volatile recently, is stronger than it has ever been.
“The reality is the American economy is resilient. But if you look at 8 years of President Obama, yeah we had growth that was pretty anemic,” Kinzinger said. “Even the administration, at points, talked about the fact that you wouldn’t see 3 percent economic growth again. And we’ve seen some massive growth now.”
Democrat Dady says she was inspired to run by her Republican parent.
She acknowledges unemployment is low, but points out that American’s pay has been flat. She says her priority is to get an increase for the Middle Class.
“Someone who works full time should not qualify for public benefits, but they do because minimum wae is too low,” she said. “If it had kept up with inflation, it would be about $11 an hour. If it had kept up with American productivity, it would be $19 an hour. Fifteen dollars an hour is a reasonable compromise for a federal minimum wage.”
Dady also supports Universal Health Care. She believes that could help remove the health care burden from business owners and solve other problems, like the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Dady says the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — was a step toward that coverage.
“But the underlying problem remained the same, that our whole system is premised on private insurers whose only goal is to make a profit. You can’t make a profit off of sick people. And people get sick,” she said.
Kinzinger counters that competition is the best way to get rising health care costs under control.
“I think health care providers have to and should be required to tell you exactly what your health care costs,” he said. “Right now, if you go in for a broken arm, you have no idea what you’re going to pay. All you care about is your co-pay. I think, if we can have people competitively shop, we drive up quality, we drive down cost, like what happens in every sector of the country except health care, which has been immune from the free market.”
The candidates also have opposing views on immigration. They both agree that reform is needed.
Dady’s law practice focuses on immigration. She argues that fixing the process would, by default, secure the border.
“Immigration should be the least controversial issue in our country,” she said. “We simply need a streamlined process and we need laws that work. There’s broad bi-partisan support, which would provide for legalization for the people who are here and fully integrated into our communities. If you give people a lawful way to come [here], they’re going to come a lawful way.”
“I’ve voted twice to fix it, over the summer,” Kinzinger said. “Unfortunately, those bills didn’t pass. You have to secure the border. That’s a wall in some places, a virtual wall in places. I’ve worked the border. It is not secure and I’ll argue with anybody who thinks it is, ’cause it’s not. I’ve seen it.”
17th Congressional District
The race for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District seat is heating up in the weeks leading up to November’s election.
The district stretches from Peoria to the Quad Cities to Rockford.
Democratic incumbent Cheri Bustos, of East Moline, is facing off against Republican – and political outsider – Bill Fawell, of Galena.
“I know that my job is to make sure I’m working hard every single day,” said Bustos.
“I’m going to represent the people. She represents the party,” said Fawell.
Democrats are hoping to regain control of the House, aimed at putting a stop to some of President Donald Trump’s policies.
“Every piece of legislation that the President and Republicans have come forward with, she’s opposed,” Fawell said.
“I think it’s a distraction, every day, in Washington,” Bustos said.
Elected in 2012, Bustos has taken a strong position on immigration, especially in recent months.
“What I support is comprehensive immigration, reform that allows our family farmers to hire workers, whether it’s seasonal workers or year-round workers, and just make sure we address it in a comprehensive manner,” she said.
Her opponent supports President Trump’s call for a border wall with Mexico, and more security.
“You have got to build a wall, not just for immigration, but for the drugs, and I absolutely support the President on this,” Fawell said.
Both candidates are focusing on helping the local farming industry with the President’s recent tariffs.
“The President has already set aside $12 or $20 billion to help farmers pick up some of the slack while we go through this trade war, and I support that,” Fawell said.
“I will continue to speak out loudly about the harm that this is doing, especially to our family farmers, and will do everything I can to put a stop to it, but this is in [Trump’s] hands,” Bustos said.
69th Congressional District
Republican representative John Cabello has held the 68th District’s seat in the Illinois congress for the last 6 years. He beat his Democratic opponent, Tricia Sweeney, back in 2016. Now, a new Democrat, Jake Castanza, is looking to take his seat.
“I think it was time for a new generation, a new face,” said Castanza, who wants to be that face. The Rockford native is challenging Cabello next month.
Castanza says he was inspired to run by what he called ‘inaction’ in Springfield.
“This whole campaign, the whole message is surrounding that the middle class has been forgotten,” he said. “Whether it’s property taxes [or] costs for pharmaceuticals, legislation is being written by special interests, rather than constituents and the needs of constituents.”
Castanza says he wants to lower property taxes and improve the state highways, which, he adds, would also boost local economies.
“We have highways, rails, waterways, airports…they’re all in this community. We haven’t invested in those things, and I really believe that if we can get a responsible financial scheme in the state set up, we can really invest in those things,” Castanza said.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Cabello prepares for his bid for re-election.
“I want to do the job, and I think people realize the good service that we’re – hopefully – providing,” he said.
Cabello is also passionate about lowering property taxes, which is why he’s standing by his decision to vote against a budget, during the impasse, that he says would have meant a 32 percent increase for taxpayers.
“I just couldn’t come to voting for this budget with all the spending that’s going on,” Cabello said. “We should reduce the size of government. So, I think that’s one of our big accomplishments, is fighting for the taxpayer, yet again.”
Cabello says he still has more he wants to accomplish in Springfield, one of which is reforming the state’s court system.
“I firmly believe that the best way we can actually start getting a handle on the major crime issues is by keeping people out of the system,” he said. “Catching them as they’re first starting to enter the system. We should have a veteran’s court. We have a drug court, we should have a mental health court.”
Both candidates want to fix the state’s educational system.
69th Congressional District
There’s with just over two weeks until Election Day, Eyewitness News is continuing to ensure you are informed before heading to the polls. The race for the 69th District pits familiar foes against each other for the second time.
“I want to bring the voice of the people,” said an eager Angie Bodine. She says she’s ready to unseat the current 69th District’s State Representative. Bodine is going against Joe Sosnowski for the second time. “People are confident,” said Bodine. “I’m going to go there and represent their voice because I’m going to bring your voice to Springfield and your problems and bring back solutions. We’ve had enough excuses.”
However, there is common ground. Bodine and Sosnowski believe the district is in need of economic reforms that could create growth and jobs.
“We need economic growth,” said Bodine. “We have been stagnant for way too long. One of the ways I want to address that is bringing passenger rail to our community, that would have wonderful results for our community to focus on property taxes and doing things that will bring those property taxes down economic growth is one of the major things that will effect property taxes in a positive way.”
“We’re very competitive geographically,” said Sosnowski (R-69th). “We have to compete against Iowa, Wisconsin. We need to have proper regulations, better tax structure and we need to work on things that cause business money like workers comp, property taxes. So were competitive to grow jobs and attract new jobs to the region.”
But they differ in education.
“We need to focus on strengthening public education it needs to be funded properly and needs to accessible to everyone,” said Bodine.
“I think the number one key is we need to offer families of students to be able to choose the education that they want,” said Sosnowski. “I think public schools are always going to be our first choice and primary mode of educating students creating choice in education is important. The state scholarship program was good to offer low income families additional opportunities for education.”
Both understand its going to be an uphill battle to create change in Springfield.
“I think there’s a lot more we can do,” said Sosnowski. “fairness in government, we’ve done a lot to streamline the costs in government with the governors leadership, we’ve shrunk government a little bit. There’s a lot more we can do to be more efficient and we need to continue to work on those things.”
“There’s a lot of concerns in our community about the political climate in Springfield,” said Bodine. “[There’s] a lot of positivity in my campaign that people are positive that I’m going to go there and represent their voice.”