Hultgren said election security starts with dedicated polling place workers
With Democrat challenger Lauren Underwood watching from the audience, Republican congressman Randy Hultgren fielded questions from 14th District constituents focused on guns, violence and threats both at home and abroad Wednesday.
The forum at the Warrenville VFW was part of a week of meetings Hultgren scheduled. It came on the heels of an event Monday night in Woodstock that featured questions about tax cuts and jobs.
Wednesday's forum featured a mix of more overtly right- and left-leaning constituents compared to Monday's installment. Questions often contained loaded language and topics such as prosecuting Hillary Clinton and the "undermining" of civil rights by the Trump administration.
Hultgren steered his answers away from those topics and delivered extended commentary on issues such as election security. Hultgren said securing elections starts with dedicated polling place workers. He added he has no doubt Russia is a threat to American elections.
"Vladimir Putin still hates America," Hultgren said. "When I look at Putin, I don't see a friend. I see KGB. I want to hold him accountable. I want to hold China accountable. And I want to hold others accountable who think they can meddle with this core principle. Russia and China are not our friends."
Hultgren supports sanctions and penalties against foreign governments that tamper with American elections.
He also touched on the idea of disinformation and propaganda several times.
"Not everything you read on the internet is true or necessarily factual," Hultgren said. "Whether it's Fox News or MSNBC, not everything is the truth. There is a perspective there. It's important to get your information from a number of different sources. People are only watching people that think what they think. We lose something when that happens."
Audience members asked Hultgren what forms of gun control he supports. He said the focus in that area should be on why people are taking their own lives, joining gangs and/or engaging in mass shootings. He said the gunman behind the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is a prime example of how focusing on mental health can address gun violence.
"That was a shooter who was crying out multiple times," Hultgren said. "And the system failed over and over and over again to respond to him, to get guns out of his hands."
Hultgren said he supported $2.3 billion in federal grants to implement school safety programs across the country.
"This has to stop; mental illness is not something that should be shunned," Hultgren said. "We need to reach out and bring help as soon as we see it."
Hultgren said he also believes law-abiding citizens have a right to own guns.
"That is something that our founders very clearly put into our Constitution," he said. "But there is responsibility with that as well. We need to get guns out of the hands of criminals or those who are wanting to do harm to other people."
Hultgren also pledged to support reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act when it comes before Congress next month.
Underwood, who lives in Naperville, and Hultgren, a Plano resident, did not interact before, during or after the event. Underwood's staff said she wanted to attend the forum as a constituent, and she had no comment on Hultgren's answers.
The next chance to ask Hultgren questions is noon Thursday at the Plainfield fire station at 23748 W. 135th St.
The sprawling 14th Congressional District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.