Sean Casten: Candidate Profile
6th District U.S. Representative (Democrat)
Back to 6th District U.S. 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.
City: Downers Grove
Facebook: Sean Casten for Congress
Family: Wife Kara. Two daughters, Gwen (13) and Audrey (10). Parents Tom & Judy Casten live in Hinsdale. Brother Damien and sister Gillian live in Chicago.
Occupation: 2000 - 2016: President & CEO Turbosteam / Recycled Energy Development
Education: B.A. Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Middlebury College (1993)
M.S. Biochemical Engineering, Dartmouth College (1998)
M.E.M., Engineering Management, Dartmouth College (1998)
Civic involvement: - Founding Chairman, Northeast CHP Initiative (nechpi.org) (2005)
- Chairman, US Combined Heat & Power Assocation (2008). Member of Board, 2006 - 2009.
- Member, Corporate Collaboration Council, Thayer School of Engineering (Dartmouth College)
- Board Member, Casten Family Foundation
- Emerging Leader, Chicago Council on Global Affairs (class of 2011)
Elected offices held: No prior elected office.
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.
As a matter of morality, economics and simple long-term planning, we should ensure that we have the best health outcomes at the lowest possible cost. The ACA was a step in the right direction, but can and should be expanded to include full universal healthcare, I would also like to see the Obamacare exchanges expanded to ensure that all Americans - regardless of their employer, state of residence or health has access to the same menu of health care options.
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 absolutely support providing citizenship for Dreamers as President Obama first passed, but remain disappointed that this was the most we could do after the failure of the legislature to pass more comprehensive immigration reform. While we of course need to maintain secure borders, the practical reality is that most undocumented immigrants in the US entered the country legally but overstayed their visas - which requires a fully different set of regulatory tools to address. A fact-based immigration policy would:
a) Prioritize immigrants skills over their country of origin when setting annual quotas. This is not to suggest that we only accept high-skilled immigrants and is certainly not to encourage the racist framing of this approach coming out of the Trump White House. Rather it is simply to acknowledge that we should welcome people for their talents, and not discourage them for the place they happen to have been born.
b) Listen to local law enforcement and not override community policing and other efforts with heavy handed federal regulation.
c) America should lead the world in providing a welcoming home for refugees (including those who face personal risk if deported). It is our founding ethos.
d) Facilitate greater cross-border collaboration with local police forces in our foreign neighbors to coordinate gang activities, drug and human trafficking.
e) Emphasize family reunification.
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?
I support Sen. Tim Kaine and Sen. Jeff Flake's efforts to substantially reduce the current, open-ended Authorization to Use Military Force. I support this on the Colin Powell principle that nations should never go to war without clearly articulated objectives. Our military certainly has a role in the middle east, but we have too heavy a footprint relative to diplomatic activities, especially after shrinking State Department budgets in the Trump administration.
What should the United States be doing to reduce the threat of potential nuclear conflict from North Korea?
I see two fundamental problems in North Korea. One, North Korea as a country is much like Russia: they crave greater credibility on the Global stage, but lack the economic or military might to achieve such ends. As such, they have a vested interest in destabilizing the world order. Two, they are - like the US - led by an emotionally insecure, intellectually-limited despot who's primary mode of negotiation is to persuade others that he just might be crazy enough to do something really stupid.
The ONLY way we address those issues is via multilateral diplomatic coordination, especially with China, without whom we cannot impose credible sanctions. And while effective diplomacy requires the credible threat of military escalation, I do not trust the Trump administration with that authority. Nor do many Americans, which introduces frightening volatility into the current situation - and means that de-escalating the conflict will be difficult prior to the election of a more competent US President.
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?
I have spent many hours as a clean energy advocate working with many members of Congress, and in general I find them to be comparable to any other large bureaucratic organization: Prone to infighting and inefficiencies, but in general led by well-intentioned public servants.
Over the last 10 years, I have also seen the GOP become openly hostile to the very idea of government and public service. The Tea Party wave elected a slate of members who sought to join an organization that they openly despised. Upon being elected, they have worked to dismantle that organization from within. That "asymmetric polarization" has made it increasingly difficult for Congress to do it's job - from the blocking of Merrick Garland's nomination to the failure to investigate Donald Trump's conflict of interest, we have a party in power that is good at not doing things, but exceptionally unqualified to get things done. Congress as an institution is fine - but would be vastly more effective if we had more than one party committed to the idea that there is a need for government regulation and oversight in a modern society.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Climate change has been the driver of my professional career. The US has billions, if not trillions of dollars worth of investment opportunities that would create jobs, lower the cost of energy and reduce pollution. I know this because I've done it - every company I ran was driven by a mission to profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we too often did this in spite of public policy, not in response thereto. But the good news is that while we cannot change the laws of thermodynamics, we can change the laws of the land. I look forward to the opportunity to make these changes once elected. For my ideas on that subject, see here: https://www.castenforcongress.com/energy-climate/
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Dan Savage. I love his moral compass and the way he is able to use his peculiar talent for righteous humor to effectuate positive change.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Judge someone who has more than you not by their wealth, but by how they have chosen to use it.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I should have asked for 3 more genies.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Molecular biology, which focused on mistakes scientists chased along the way to discovery. This emphasized that it is often best to remain curious and skeptical.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Minimize the gap between who you really are and who you think they are. Everyone I've known to led a truly happy life knew themselves.