Seth Lewis: Candidate Profile

45th District Representative (Republican)

  • Seth Lewis, running for 45th District Representative

    Seth Lewis, running for 45th District Representative

Updated 2/14/2014 10:42 PM

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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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City: Bartlett


Office sought:

45th District Representative

Age: 45

Family: Spouse- Dr. Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, Superintendent of Schools D96 Riverside IL, Max age 12, Clark age 10

Occupation: State Farm Insurance Agent, Previously COO of $60M Manufacturing and Distribution company

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Education: BS Industrial Engineering, University of Iowa, December 1991

Civic involvement: Former President/Treasurer Bartlett Little League, Former Treasurer Bartlett Raider Athletic Association, Coach: Baseball, Basketball, Football; Knights of Columbus,

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Questions & Answers

Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is that?

I am concerned that the greatness of our state will not be present for our children unless we step up and take charge of our government.

I want to help bring a new brand of leadership to Springfield. I want to add strength to the voices who are calling to bring back fiscal responsibility, financial stability and professional integrity. There are many individuals that live in Illinois and District 45 who share my beliefs and my priorities. I believe that by working together we can do an even better job of representing the values of the communities we serve.

I will support a new era of fiscal discipline that will put our finances back in order. I will promote a business-friendly mindset that makes Illinois competitive again with surrounding states. I will promote transparency and accountability in government to erase the ethical cloud hanging over our state from far too many corruption scandals.


I want to make sure that we can remake Illinois so seniors can stay in their homes and young people will be encouraged to raise their own families here. Right now, too many of our young and old are heading out of Illinois.

The Illinois I know includes some of the finest families and communities in America. Our state is at the heart of America and Chicago is the capitol of the Midwest. We have amazing potential and deserve political leadership worthy of the goodness of our people. Businesses and industry should be flocking to Illinois, not leaving. People should be proud to live in Illinois.

What differentiates you most from your opponents in the race?

I believe my background gives me great insights into what is necessary in Springfield to improve our leadership.

I am a small business owner, husband, father, and an engineer. My background led me to a leadership position with a suburban manufacturing firm, but I elected to change course and start my own State Farm insurance agency when it became apparent manufacturing in Illinois was evaporating.

My transition from my trained field to a small business owner opened my eyes to the problems with Illinois' economy and gave me insights into how we can lead it back. In the course of that transition, I talked to hundreds of Illinois citizens also in transition because of questionable economic decisions by our political leaders.

My experiences in the workplace have sharpened my resolve to improve our state's economy in order to ensure a bright future for our children. I cannot watch our state erode further without stepping into the arena and trying to make it better.

My sensibilities are not with the political class but with the average family in the 45th District trying to make a better life for their children. I will always do my job representing the district with those people in mind, not the political leaders or the news media.

I believe my background distinguishes me in this in this race " an engineer turned small business owner who loves Illinois and wants to help restore its greatness for years to come.

Would you vote to make Illinois' temporary income tax hike permanent before it expires in January 2015? If not, how will you replace the billions of dollars the tax hike brought in, or what cuts would you make?

I am opposed to making Illinois' temporary income tax hike permanent. Illinois is underperforming surrounding states regarding job growth. The biggest reason is the high cost of doing business in Illinois. Taxes of all kind are too high and costs to businesses such as worker's compensation and unemployment insurance are uncompetitive.

We do not have a revenue problem in Illinois, we have a spending problem. Lawmakers have made only tepid efforts to control spending over the past several years and continue to add new costly programs despite the obvious budget problems.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars in waste in the state budget and it will take a new generation of state leaders to root it out. I intend to be one of those leaders. Some of the obvious places to look include Medicaid fraud, duplicative programs and pensions. We need to look deeper than the obvious areas and search every corner of the budget for waste, duplication, fraud and abuse.

The regulatory climate in Illinois also is problematic. Regulations continue to grow without any checks. Surely, some regulations have served their purpose and are outdated and need to be retired, along with the bureaucracy that surrounds it. We need to systematically go through state regulations and trim them back to only those absolutely necessary.

Please outline your views on public pensions in Illinois.

Illinois has a serious public pension problem. The recently passed state legislation will help address it in the short-term and I would have supported it. However, it is far from the total solution.

The legislation is based on optimistic projections and any overspending along the way will further throw the equation off. In other words, controlling spending is the first step to solving our long-term pension and financial problems in Illinois.

It is extremely important that legislators resist the urge to consider the pension legislation as a signal to escalate spending even more. The opposite should be our goal. Unless we get a handle on spending in Illinois, we are facing more tax increases, continued job growth stagnation, and a further trend of job and population loss.

A particular concern of mine is the movement in Springfield to shift some of the pension burden from the state to local property taxes. That would be a devastating and unfair blow to the suburbs and I oppose these efforts based upon our current pension situation.

We must continue to pursue further pension reforms on a bi-partisan basis. In the meantime, we need to ratchet up our commitment to fiscal discipline so we have money to spend on our true priorities instead of pension, debt, and Medicaid fraud.

What changes would you make to the state's new concealed carry law, if any? Would you change the number of exempted places where people cannot carry? In what way? Would you change the training requirements? In what way? Do you support restricting assault weapons? High-capacity magazines?

Our country was founded on several bedrock principles " one of them is that our citizens have the natural right to protect themselves and their families.

I am results driven and I do not see the need to pass even more gun control legislation when it is demonstrated that many of our existing laws do not work or are not vigorously enforced. The number one improvement we can make is to ensure that mentally unstable individuals do not have access to firearms. We should not be blaming guns for our crime problems. We should focus on increasing educational opportunities for youngsters in high crime areas and provide a more vibrant economy throughout the state to remove the incentives to deal drugs and join gangs. If we solve our economic problems we will solve many of our crime problems as well.

Which of the following do you support: New casinos, slot machines at horse racing tracks, gambling on the Internet? Would you approve legislation that includes all of the above in order to compromise and get the parts that you want?

Ideally, Illinois would have a thriving economy and would not have to turn to gambling revenue to survive. That is my goal as a legislator " to help rebuild our state economy.

We have to rebrand our business climate to attract all kinds of businesses and make it attractive for our young people to stay here and build their own families. I know firsthand how the decline in Illinois' manufacturing base has hurt families. We have lots of rebuilding to do.

Illinois already has substantial gaming opportunities, and I am unsure if additional gambling will be a true economic fix. Any gambling we allow in Illinois must be designed with complete transparency and safeguards in place to prevent corruption. We must also make sure that any new gaming will not simply take jobs and revenue from communities with existing gaming. The same is true of the horse racing industry. We must also not harm neighborhoods or change the nature of stable communities.

On what issues would you would break with your party, or have you broken with your party, and why?

This is the first time I have pursued public office so I cannot give you any voting examples. However, I will always put the taxpayers and families of the 45th District first as a state representative. I understand fully that if I am elected I will represent people of both parties and will act accordingly in office.

No party is right 100 percent of the time and any public official who communicates that way is putting his party before the people. I will always think of my neighbors before my party leaders when I cast votes in Springfield.

What is your position on limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election?

I am in favor of a limit on party leaders contributing money to members of their caucus during a general election. We have seen from experience in Illinois that the legislative process is heavily tilted toward party leadership primarily because of the money leverage it holds over membership.

In recent years, Springfield has essentially been run by a small amount people with many of the legislators rendered powerless. We have to learn from our mistakes in Illinois and put in place a carefully formulated limit that will be effective and meet constitutional muster. Our state has not been managed effectively the last decade and an unhealthy power concentration at the top is partly to blame.

I believe that power should be concentrated as much as possible with the people. Party leaders are not elected by the citizens of Illinois at large so there's no reason they should have such disproportionate power. We need to empower all members of the legislature so the people of Illinois are in charge, not a few leaders.

If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not?

I would vote in favor of Jim Durkin to continue as leader. He seems to be a conscientious public servant who is trying to do the right thing. He is from a nearby suburb and can relate to the problems and concerns of the people in the 45th District.

He is a former prosecutor with a good reputation for ethics. He is the kind of leader we need in Springfield and I will be happy to support him going forward.

What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears, and should state tax breaks be given to companies moving from one Illinois municipality to another?

It is a sad testament to the business climate in Illinois that seemingly the only way we can retain large businesses is to offer them large tax breaks. A healthy state with a vibrant economy would have businesses lining up to locate here. We have the opposite.

That said, in the short-term, we must do all we can to slow the tide of businesses moving elsewhere. Every large business that leaves has a devastating ripple effect on our economy and we must prevent that while we repair our business climate.

In the long-run, we must reduce the cost of doing business in Illinois or risk further erosion of our tax base. Growth creates prosperity, not higher taxes.

We need to reform worker's compensation laws further, reduce unemployment insurance and reduce our regulatory burdens.

Whatever incentives we may offer, the criteria for receiving such incentives must be met. There has to be a business mind set in Springfield that demands a return on investment and accountability for the taxpayers' dollars.

Do you favor changing how Illinois sets new legislative district maps every 10 years? If so how?

Yes. Our current system breeds extreme partisanship and has led to questionable policy making the last decade or so. We should adopt a system similar to the Iowa model, which takes politics almost completely out of the process.

In Iowa, maps are drawn by non-partisan legislative staff and computers without knowledge of where incumbents live precisely. The maps ultimately are approved by the legislature. The districts in Iowa are dramatically fairer and more logical than districts drawn in states where political parties control the process.

We need to adopt the Iowa model in Illinois.

Finally, is there anything we haven't asked about that you feel we should know?

I truly believe Illinois has the opportunity to capitalize on an economic revival and I want to help usher in that era. One of the greatest benefits we can provide to the citizens of our state is to further develop a 21st century learning environment so our youth can compete and participate in the businesses of the future. My wife is an educational leader and I have two children of school age. I support properly funded education mandates with accountability. We have hit so many lows in Illinois in recent years that it has created a feeling in our communities that "Illinois is a tough place to live" and a desire to exit the state. I am optimistic about our state's future. I want to improve our state in an effort to keep Illinois families together.