Republican congressional candidates differ on aid for Ukraine

The three Republicans running for Illinois’ largely suburban 11th Congressional District seat disagree on whether the U.S. should continue providing aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

In a joint virtual interview Tuesday with the Daily Herald, candidate Kent Mercado said he supports providing assistance to the beleaguered European nation. Another GOP hopeful, Jerry Evans, said Ukraine assistance should stop until the U.S. secures its southern border.

The third candidate, Susan Hathaway-Altman, said the U.S. should focus on domestic issues and not intervene in foreign affairs. Hathaway-Altman also questioned why the U.S. is a member of the NATO military alliance, which was formed to counter the expansion of what was then the Soviet Union.

The candidates spoke about foreign policy and other issues during the roughly hour-long discussion over Zoom.

Hathaway-Altman, of Geneva, raised the issue while answering a question about immigration. She supports a non-interventionalist stance and claims that’s the philosophy embedded in the Constitution.

“We need to care about our soil,” said Hathaway-Altman, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2022. “We need to care more about the United States right now.”

The only exception Hathaway-Altman cited was aid for Israel.

Mercado, of Bartlett, said the U.S. should continue helping Ukraine but he called for accountability of how the money is to be used.

As for Israel, Mercado said the U.S. should continue assisting that nation while also providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people affected by the current war in Gaza.

Evans, a Warrenville resident who also ran in 2022, said he agrees with Speaker Mike Johnson, who opposes sending more aid to Ukraine without first securing the U.S. border with Mexico and has vowed not to allow a vote on a foreign aid package that already has passed the Senate.

When asked about Israel, Evans insisted that nation has a right to exist and to defend itself, and he supports sending U.S. aid to Israel.

Unlike Hathaway-Altman, both Evans and Mercado defended America’s membership in NATO. But both said other nations need to increase their military spending to the alliance’s target.

Following a weekend rally in South Carolina, former President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for saying he once told an unidentified NATO member he would withhold U.S. aid and encourage Russia to do as it wishes with allies that don’t contribute enough to defense spending.

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

The winner of the March 19 Republican primary will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville or Democratic challenger Qasim Rashid, also of Naperville, in November’s general election. Early voting has begun.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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