Sameena Mustafa: Candidate Profile
5th District U.S. Representative (Democrat)
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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.
Family: Husband, Talha Basit
Occupation: Commercial real estate tenant advocate for small businesses and nonprofits (on leave)
Education: Northwestern University, B.A.
Civic involvement: For over a decade, I have professionally counseled and negotiated on behalf of small businesses and nonprofits as a commercial real estate tenant representative, where I helped organizations serving women, children, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees and sexual assault survivors. As a former Planned Parenthood manager, I am the only candidate in this race with direct healthcare experience in a federally-funded clinic. I have held leadership and advisory positions in countless civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Chicago Women's Health Center, United State of Women, Chicago Community Trust, YWCA, Chicago Public Media (WBEZ/Vocalo), and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
What do you think is the government's responsibility in assuring that citizens have health care? To what extent does the Affordable Care Act address this responsibility? What, if any, changes are needed in the act.
Access to affordable, quality healthcare is a human right.
I have managed a federally-funded clinic and have seen firsthand the need for a fair and equitable healthcare system. As more people become insured through the ACA, public opinion is increasingly in agreement on the importance of insuring all Americans.
The ACA must be defended from Republicans attacks. Improvements to the ACA can increase access to care and make the system more easily navigable. However, the only way to provide affordable, quality healthcare to every American is through a single-payer system, Medicare for All. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, 31% of U.S. healthcare spending is allocated to administrative costs alone. The United States has arguably the most expensive and underperforming healthcare system among wealthy nations.
Enacting Medicare for All would cover all Americans and save us $400-$600 billion annually. Representative Quigley accepts contributions from health insurance PACs and has not supported HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. I support HR 676 and will work to make certain no American is denied access to healthcare based on their ability to pay and that we have a healthcare system that allows us to compete internationally.
What immigration policies do you support? Where, if at all, do you see room for compromise to produce an effective policy on immigration? What, if any, responsibility does the government have toward immigrants referred to as Dreamers who were brought to the United States illegally as children and are now adults? How will these policies affect your district?
I support the passage of a clean DREAM Act that does not include additional border security costs and protects those at greatest risk of deportation. We need to defend and expand DACA and DAPA to ensure the safety and integrity of families living and working in America. Eleven million undocumented individuals in our country are not covered by the DREAM Act. I support giving them the opportunity for a path to citizenship so that they may be full participants in our communities and economy without risking harm to themselves or families.
I support HR 1608, which improves accountability for border patrol
HR 1815, to keep ICE from seizing people in schools
and HR 1405, giving deported United States veterans a chance to re-enter the U.S. legally. Representative Quigley has yet to lend his support to these bills.
What military or diplomatic roles should the United States play to promote peace and stability in the Mideast? Under what circumstances should we have military forces actively operating?
Years of military intervention have contributed to the destabilization of the region and produced endless wars, harming our economy, our troops, and our respect as a global superpower.
The Trump administration's volatile, infantile foreign policy stance has deeply damaged our reputation. I do not support the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which gave Trump more defense assistance than he requested. Rep. Quigley, who accepts donations from Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, voted with members of the GOP for the bill.
Threats of foreign terrorism will exist so long as we rely on reactionary policies that keep open Guantanamo and ban refugees and citizens of majority Muslim countries from entering our nation. These policies embolden extremist groups like ISIS. Congress must speak out against President Trump's dangerous rhetoric and vote against legislation that perpetuates endless war and exacerbates the threat of terrorism.
Regional instability contributes directly to the appeal of groups like ISIS. Restructuring our foreign aid package to build schools, address water and food shortages, and rebuild critical infrastructure would address the root causes of this instability.
America's promotion of peace cannot be limited to foreign beneficiaries. Combating racist extremism in the United States, which takes the lives of more Americans than do foreign terrorists, is a matter of national security.
I value the lives our service members and the ideals upon which America was founded. I believe that military action must only be taken after diplomatic action and economic sanctions have been given a chance to work.
What should the United States be doing to reduce the threat of potential nuclear conflict from North Korea?
The U.S. policy of Ã’strategic patienceÃ“ has not impeded North Korea's ability to create and deploy long-range missiles. President Trump's dangerous rhetoric fans the flames of an already tense situation and puts the safety of the entire global community at risk.
Our State Department has seen a drastic reduction in the number of diplomatic and foreign officers, limiting the resources we have to cultivate the relationships and knowledge needed to avoid nuclear threats, which we successfully did during the Cold War by investing in diplomacy, intelligence, and aid. Smart power and soft power must be our first line of defense.
Any military option put forth for consideration should not involve the U.S. acting unilaterally.
Statistical analysis has refuted the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence as a military strategy. The only way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. North Korea must not be allowed to develop and deploy them. Furthermore, the United States must work with fellow nuclear-armed nations to enact a global ban on nuclear weapons.
How would you describe the effectiveness of Congress today? If you think Congress needs to be more effective, what would you do to promote that?
The current Representative, Mike Quigley, votes with the GOP on deregulation, increased defense spending, tax cuts, and unfair trade practices.
I value strong listening and negotiating skills and will work with others to pass legislation to improve the lives of all Americans. However, the current GOP poses a greater threat to America than a lack of bipartisanship. Members of Congress who lack the courage to fight for the American people blame their failure to do so on partisanship.
So long as our elected officials prioritize the interests of wealthy and corporate donors over those of their constituents, Congress will fail the average American. Like many of his colleagues, Republican and Democratic, Representative Quigley is funded by corporate PACs and votes in their interests. The world's greatest legislature is bought and paid for by the wealthy and well-connected.
It is the duty of Congress to represent the American people. Not corporations. Not special interests. Not political parties. People.
Representative Quigley repeatedly refused to do a town hall until faced with protests and pressure from activists. He routinely avoids, cancels or sends surrogates to speaking engagements in the district and has earned a no-show reputation. Elected officials should be reliable, accessible, and publicly engaged in the communities they serve. At a bare minimum, democracy requires us to show up and we deserve and should demand as much from our elected officials.
I am not accepting money from corporate PACs and will show up and fight for the people of the 5th district.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
The most important issues to me are the same issues that are important to the people of the 5th District. I'm speaking directly to voters all across the district who understand that we are living in a critical time in our history and need representatives who are not beholden to corporate donors and lobbyists. I will push for a constitutional amendment to ensure free and fair elections to address the corrosive effect of money in politics. We have an opportunity to transform our healthcare system and our economy by expanding healthcare access, so I will fight for Medicare for All. I will fight to protect immigrants by passing a clean DREAM act, expanding DACA and DAPA, and by creating paths to citizenship for all immigrants regardless of status. I will fight for criminal justice reform by ending money bail and increasing Justice Department resources to investigate civil rights violations across this country. I will also work to combat climate change and preserve our planet for generations to come. I support passing the Congressional Review Act to overrule the FCC vote against net neutrality and will work to enact legislation to protect free speech and foster innovation.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Barbara Lee, U.S. House CA-13, for being a vocal critic of endless wars and champion of progressive causes.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Serving others when it's easy is not enough. My mother never turned away someone who was sick even if it put us at risk.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I cannot think of a Ã’do-over.Ã“ Every life decision is a learning experience. I focus on what must be done now and do it.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Philosophy. It pushed me to consider and debate new ideas, defend my positions, and think critically instead of blindly accepting conventional wisdom.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and your ideals.