Why three Democrats are challenging Krishnamoorthi for Congress

  • From left, Mohammed Faheem, Inam Hussain and Raja Krishnamoorthi are candidates for the 8th Congressional District primary race in March 2020. Not pictured is candidate William Olson.

    From left, Mohammed Faheem, Inam Hussain and Raja Krishnamoorthi are candidates for the 8th Congressional District primary race in March 2020. Not pictured is candidate William Olson.

  • Raja Krishnamoorthi

    Raja Krishnamoorthi

  • Mohammed Faheem

    Mohammed Faheem

  • Inam Hussain

    Inam Hussain

 
 
Updated 12/7/2019 4:26 PM

Nearly halfway through his second term, Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg has been prominent lately in the House impeachment inquiry hearings and in proposing legislation to combat bullying against LGBTQ and other minority students.

But those efforts don't seem to account for the list of challengers who recently filed in the 8th Congressional District. Three Democrats are opposing Krishnamoorthi in the March 17 primary, though not a single Republican candidate has surfaced for the general election.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Other Democratic members of Congress from the suburbs also have drawn opponents from within their own party, including U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley in the 5th District, Jan Schakowsky in the 9th District, Brad Schneider in the 10th District and Bill Foster in the 11th District.

Kent Redfield, professor of political science emeritus at the University of Illinois Institute for Legal, Legislative & Policy Studies, said his first guess at the reason for such an outpouring of opposition would have been the momentum of Democrats further to the left pushing for a stronger voice. But that doesn't appear to be the case with Krishnamoorthi's three challengers.

Set to join Krishnamoorthi on the primary ballot are Mohammed Faheem of Plainfield, Inam Hussain of Libertyville and William Olson of Schaumburg. The district stretches from Buffalo Grove to Lombard and from O'Hare Airport to Elgin. Two of the candidates don't live in the district, which is not a requirement.

Faheem cites job creation, environmentally friendly economic development and veterans assistance among his top priorities, adding that he believes Krishnamoorthi has fallen short in these areas.

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"Over the past two terms, I don't see him doing a lot for the 8th District," Faheem said. "His focus seems to be shifting."

Faheem, who lists community leader and motivational speaker among his professional roles, said he started a cable TV show, "The Employment Hour," in 2006 and started a consulting company called the Center for Strategic Solutions after a decade as director of business employer solutions and corporate relations for the Illinois workNet Center in Arlington Heights.

Compared to such personal and professional experience, Faheem said he considers political experience overrated for the office he's seeking.

Faheem's Plainfield home is outside the 8th District. But he's running against Krishnamoorthi because the 8th District is where he's done his work and where his office is located.

Hussain, whose home in Libertyville is also outside the 8th District, identifies himself as a Pakistani American physician critical of what he sees as the pro-India stance of the Indian-born Krishnamoorthi, whose parents brought him to the U.S. at age 3 months.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He's especially critical of Krishnamoorthi's attendance along with President Donald Trump at a September event in Houston warmly welcoming India's controversial Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hussain said he, too, is running in the 8th District because it's an area he's become familiar with through work, having treated 10,000 to 12,000 patients there.

He vows to work for reduced prescription drug prices, education, tax cuts, individual liberties, charity and industry.

He said he's undaunted by the crowded primary that's emerged.

"I think it is a duty of American democracy that people are able to participate to the level of their ability," Hussain said.

Olson, the only challenger who lives in the 8th District, could not be reached for comment and is not known by Schaumburg Township Democratic Committeeman Michael Cudzik.

On a Ballotpedia questionnaire, Olson criticized members of Congress for enabling the behavior of President Donald Trump and allowing taxpayers to finance the mistreatment of immigrant children.

The self-described author and publisher said he's passionate about immigration law, criminal justice, privacy rights, educational equality, Department of Defense spending and environmental degradation. He names as his favorite book one he wrote himself, "Philadelphi."

Krishnamoorthi, along with Quigley, is on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that conducted the impeachment investigation into whether Trump exerted pressure on Ukraine for political favors. He said he is proud of his accomplishments in office, including on workforce development and efforts to fight the teen vaping epidemic.

Krishnamoorthi rebuffed any suggestion that he favors India or that his attendance of the Modi event was anything other than a diplomatic responsibility.

"I put our constituents first and American interests above all else," Krishnamoorthi said.

As far as the $6.3 million campaign fund that Faheem cited as a symptom of Krishnamoorthi being out of touch with regular citizens, the congressman said most donations come from individuals. He added that Chicago is a major media market and campaigns are expensive, especially if a Republican opponent emerges for November.

The Illinois Republican Party has until June 1 to slate people to run for seats for which the party has no candidates.

"I have to be as prepared as possible to defend the seat and defend my position," Krishnamoorthi said.

Redfield said one reason candidates with particular concerns might run against an established and well-financed incumbent is to force him or her to confront those issues and get them publicly discussed.

"Sometimes people will run just to prod the electorate or the member to move in a particular direction," he said.

Among other Democratic primaries, Brian Burns of Chicago will face Quigley, of Chicago, in the 5th District; Andrew Tarnasiewicz-Heldut of Chicago will challenge Schakowsky, of Evanston, in the 9th; Adam Broad, of Buffalo Grove, is running against Schneider, of Deerfield, in the 10th; and Rachel Ventura of Joliet is taking on Foster, of Naperville, in the 11th.

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