Back to 42nd District Representative
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.
Family: My wife, Kathy (Cahill) Johnson, is a high school girls' lacrosse coach and piano teacher. We are the proud parents of a two-year-old son.
Occupation: I work in the Revenue Department at the DuPage County Clerk's Office.
Education: Harvard University, 2002. Bachelor of Arts (Government).
Wheaton Warrenville South High School, 1998.
Civic involvement: Two-term President- DuPage Young Republicans.
Secretary- Republican National Hispanic Assembly, DuPage Chapter.
Winfield Township Republican Precinct Committeeman.
Volunteer Wheaton Wings and Wheaton Park District soccer coach.
Co-Chairman- House and Neighborhood Development (H.A.N.D.)- Kirkland House, Harvard University. Provided after-school tutoring and mentoring to underprivileged children.
Elected offices held: None.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is that?
My wife Kathy and I were both born and raised in this community, and now we're raising our own two-year-old son here. We want him to enjoy a great childhood and great education just like we did, but the last few years have been a hard time to start a family in Illinois. The weak job market, rising healthcare costs, and a general sense of economic insecurity have taken their toll on us, just like they have for so many working families.
Meanwhile, we see elected representatives wasting their time pointing fingers and picking fights, rather than delivering solutions that put a little more money in our pockets and make it a little easier to get ahead. I'm running for state representative because I believe the families of this district deserve better.
What differentiates you most from your opponents in the race?
My opponent has not passed a single bill as primary sponsor since arriving in Springfield. Veteran statehouse reporter Rich Miller has called her "perhaps the least influential member of the Illinois House." Her divisive rhetoric and confrontational approach have not delivered results that benefit the hard-working families of this district.
I'm not looking to go down to Springfield to pick fights or get publicity. I'll be going down there to roll up my sleeves and get to work solving problems. The families of this community work hard every day to build a better life for themselves, and they deserve positive, unifying representation that seeks common ground solutions and delivers visible results.
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 would not vote to extend the income tax increase. For hard-working families trying to get ahead, the difference between a 5% and 3% income tax has a real impact on their lives. It might mean the ability to buy your kids the presents they really want for their birthdays. It might mean being able to finally replace the family car that's on it's last legs. It might mean the first family vacation in five years or the opportunity to go out for a "date night" with your spouse every month. Working families deserve to keep more of the money they earn, and I will be looking out for them in Springfield.
Our state's finances are never going to improve if we don't get the Illinois economy growing again; otherwise we're just fighting over pieces of a shrinking pie. More money in regular people's pockets leads to more consumer spending, more business growth, more hiring, and more money in more people's pockets- all of which leads to long-term growth of Illinois income tax revenue.
In the short term, we need to stop the massive yearly increases in state spending. Families have had to tighten their belts and live within their means in this economy; it's time the Illinois government did the same. On the revenue side, I would look towards expanding gaming, a source of voluntarily contributed revenues, unlike income and property taxes. I would also work to eliminate tax giveaways and loopholes that benefit the well-connected at the expense of hard-working families.
Please outline your views on public pensions in Illinois.
I believe that the failure of Illinois politicians to adequately fund the pension promises they made was irresponsible and inexcusable. The consequences of that mismanagement are now being felt by employees that did their jobs for years and planned their retirements around promises that are now in doubt. Meanwhile, the younger generation has inherited the tab for large unfunded liabilities along with a broken economy as we try to start families and careers of our own.
The recently passed pension reform bill attempted to move the ball forward on this problem, but I remain unconvinced that it is consistent with the Illinois Constitution. The upcoming court rulings on this law will set the parameters for the types of reforms that can be made to pension programs going forward.
Once we know those constitutional parameters, it is important that Republicans also recognize the parameters of political reality in a state with sizable Democratic majorities in both houses. Insisting on policies that have no chance of actually being implemented is not "changing the conversation." It's taking yourself out of the conversation. I am committed to playing a constructive role in repairing the state's retirement system rather than standing on the sideline pointing fingers.
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?
I support the Second Amendment right of citizens to bear firearms to protect themselves. Concealed carry is brand new to Illinois, and it still has not been fully implemented. We need to take some time to observe its effects in practice before contemplating potential changes to concealed carry or other Illinois gun laws.
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?
People who work hard for a living deserve the freedom to spend their money as they see fit, and every dollar of government revenue from gaming is a dollar that doesn't have to come out of the pockets of the hard-working families of this district via income taxes and property taxes.
I wouldn't support locating gaming establishments in our district, because I don't think they would fit well with the existing residential and business makeup of the community, but I would be in favor of casino expansion into a market like Chicago, where millions of dollars of tax revenue are flowing over the border into nearby Indiana casinos.
I would also support allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks and certain forms of wagering on the Internet, such as online poker and horse betting, provided they were well-regulated with strong consumer protections.
On what issues would you would break with your party, or have you broken with your party, and why?
The Republican Party needs to be more welcoming and inclusive if we hope to be successful in the state of Illinois. We have to focus on what brings us together and not what drives us apart. Most importantly, we need to offer real solutions and not just be the "Party of No."
I strongly disagreed with the tactics of national Republicans that led to last fall's government shutdown. Families trying to get ahead in this economy deserve representatives who work constructively to solve problems, not create new problems to score political points.
I also believe the Republican Party needs to speak more to the concerns of "job holders" and "job seekers" in addition to those of "job creators". We need to emphasize pro-growth policies that directly benefit working families who have watched the stock market bounce back from the recession much more quickly than they have.
What is your position on limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election?
I think our entire campaign finance system needs to be reformed to eliminate the distortions in influence that are created when certain entities and organizations are privileged in the amounts of money they can both raise and contribute. Our families deserve elected officials who will deliver visible results for them and not merely represent the interests of the powerful individuals who fund their campaigns.
If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not?
I do plan to support Jim Durkin's re-election as House Republican Leader. In the few months since he was unanimously elected to that position, his words and actions have embodied the unifying, inclusive, and positive approach that I believe Republicans must take if we wish to be successful in Illinois. I look forward to the opportunity to work constructively as a member of his team in Springfield to deliver real solutions that help working families build a better life for themselves.
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?
I do not believe that there should be a different set of rules for the powerful and well-connected than there are for regular people and small businesses. I am in favor of simplifying and overhauling the tax code to create a jobs-friendly business climate in Illinois, but I do not believe in handing out special tax breaks to favored companies.
Our state has enough inherent competitive advantages that Illinois does not need to bribe companies to locate here. We simply need to get out of our own way and stop enacting business-unfriendly policies that drive them away.
Do you favor changing how Illinois sets new legislative district maps every 10 years? If so how?
We should absolutely reform the redistricting process in Illinois and take it out of the hands of self-interested legislators. Districts that are drawn to be "safe" for one political party undermine the right of citizens to choose their own representatives, and they also encourage candidates to appeal to the extremes of their party. More competitive districts would require candidates to seek common ground solutions.
There are several potential methods of drawing districts that would be preferable to our current system, including appointing an independent commission, using computer modeling, or holding a competition among citizens as proposed by West Chicago Representative Mike Fortner, who previously represented much of the current 42nd District. Almost anything, including completely randomly drawn districts, would be better than what we have now.
Finally, is there anything we haven't asked about that you feel we should know?
As the father of a two-year-old, I believe that education has to be one of our top priorities. My wife and I received excellent educations in this community and both graduated from Wheaton Warrenville South High School. I went on to Harvard University and felt my education had prepared me as well as anyone I encountered there. I want my son, and all children, to enjoy the benefits of such a high-quality education.
That focus on education must include the autistic and special needs communities. My wife Kathy worked for three years in the special education department at Wheaton Warrenville South, and the students she worked with were some of the most joyful and enthusiastic learners one could ever imagine. One of our community's great strengths is its commitment to providing support and expanded opportunities for these children, and I will work hard in Springfield on their behalf.