Endorsement: Casten for Congress from Illinois Dist. 6

  • Sean Casten, left, and Jeanne Ives

    Sean Casten, left, and Jeanne Ives

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 9/29/2020 9:44 AM

In many ways, the race for Congress from the 6th District is a microcosm of the political debate roiling our country this election season. Therein lies our greatest discomfort when it comes to selecting a candidate.

Perhaps like many centrists in the 6th District, we approach the candidacy of incumbent Democrat Sean Casten, of Downers Grove, with some apprehension.


Not that we have any doubts about where he stands on issues, for -- whether he's talking about a rap video in which he ridicules voters of Trump's base or something as serious as immigration policy or gun control -- he is unequivocally candid about expressing his progressive views. That's refreshing, and it's a trait shared by his Republican challenger, former state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

With Ives, we made our reservations clear during the primary when we endorsed her opponent, expressing concerns about a staunchly conservative political career that, in spite of some noteworthy successes, has been overshadowed by "contentious obstinacy and bouts of hyperbolic insults," as we said at the time. It's not so much her positions that concern us -- we endorsed the conservative Peter Roskam many times for this seat and before him the conservative lion Henry Hyde -- as her reflexive combativeness. Unfortunately, Ives, of Wheaton, openly rejected offers to participate in a joint meeting with Casten and our editorial board at which some of these concerns could be explored and viewers could directly compare her candidacy and positions with Casten's. So, we are left with no reason to modify our previous doubts.

Which leaves us to our apprehensions about Casten -- and the notions that help us overcome them to endorse him with confidence.

Perhaps chief among these is the observation that however candid he is in expressing his ideas, he comes to them thoughtfully and independently.

Take climate change, the area with which he has the most personal experience as the owner of a successful energy recycling business. Here, he clearly delineates on his candidate questionnaire three steps the United States must take to do its part -- "(a) Cut our primary energy use per dollar of GDP in half ... (b) Invest in a massive R&D effort to figure out how to make critical materials -- like steel, fertilizer, and cement -- from non-fossil inputs and (c) get back to 350 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere."

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Or the nation's approach to the coronavirus pandemic, where he urges school-opening decisions to be based on the judgments of public health officials and "informed by local data" and says wearing a mask is important "not because of my own scientific training, but because public health experts who have studied this particular virus and it's modes of transmission have shown conclusively that if we all wear masks we can slow the spread of this disease."

Casten advocates firmly progressive positions on most topics of the day -- whether it be social justice, immigration or gun control. But he expresses arguments calmly and engagingly, often with inviting ideas such as a national gun buyback plan or the prospect of basing immigration quotas on America's economic needs rather than simple nationality.

For decades, the 6th District has been a reliably Republican, conservative district. The Blue Wave of 2018 demonstrated how much that is changing, and now the district has one of two such suburban races -- the other being the 14th -- that are expected to be closely contested reflections of that trend. Casten's bid for a second term will be followed nationally for what it says about the state and direction of our politics. We hope that, if nothing else, it says our discourse should be defined by reason and intellect over conflict and personal insults. We endorse Casten on that hope.

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