Oberweis, Underwood spar in online candidate forum
Republican congressional hopeful Jim Oberweis used an online candidate forum to repeatedly criticize Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood on Tuesday, bashing her voting history and some of her stances.
"When Lauren Underwood started voting like a radical socialist, I decided it was time to run for the 14th Congressional District," said Oberweis, a state senator and dairy magnate from Sugar Grove. "Her values are not our values."
Underwood, a freshman legislator from Naperville, rejected that characterization and got in some shots of her own during the roughly hourlong discussion hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce. Most pointedly, Underwood called comments Oberweis has made in opposition of abortion and in favor of limiting access to birth control "extremely disturbing."
"His views, frankly, are radical and out of touch with the people in our community," said Underwood, who supports unrestricted access to reproductive health services.
Oberweis didn't respond.
The candidates also discussed the COVID-19 crisis, the economy and other subjects during the forum, which was moderated by chamber president and CEO Jim Di Ciaula and observed by about 70 people.
Underwood defeated incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren two years ago to turn the historically red seat blue.
Oberweis was elected to the state Senate in 2012. He has unsuccessfully campaigned for Congress, U.S. senator and governor. When asked to cite his priorities if elected, Oberweis said the economy has to come first and insisted he's the guy to tackle the job.
"That's where my strength is. That's what I've done for my entire life," he said. "I believe that we need people in Washington who understand what it takes to motivate entrepreneurs to risk their time and their energy and their capital to create jobs and opportunities for other people."
Oberweis also said reducing crime and violence would be a priority.
"I strongly support the right of people to protest peacefully, but not to damage businesses and steal things," Oberweis said, referring to the rioting and looting that have occurred across the country recently.
Oberweis called on Underwood to condemn that violence, but she didn't respond. Underwood said addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is her top priority. A full economic recovery won't be possible "until we get our arms around this virus," she said.
"We need to have a national strategy for managing COVID-19. We need to be able to extend testing across the country, making sure that people can actually get their results back (in a timely fashion)," said Underwood, a registered nurse who has worked as a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and in other health care roles. "We need free coronavirus treatment. And we need to be preparing the American people to receive this vaccine."
Underwood called health care another key issue.
"We know that out-of-pocket costs are too high," she said. "Even in what President Trump was hailing as a booming economy, we knew that the American people were tapering their insulin, cutting their pills in half, delaying visits to their providers or postponing procedures because they couldn't afford the out-of-pocket costs."
Underwood said she and some colleagues have drafted legislation aiming to lower those costs, and that the proposals have cleared the House with bipartisan support.
Throughout the forum, Oberweis attacked Underwood for voting in line with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In response, Underwood noted that three pieces of legislation she developed had bipartisan support and ultimately were signed into law by President Donald Trump.
"I think it's really telling that my opponent's decided to use his time to distort and attack my record," she said. "My record is clear."
The bills in question -- which sought to reduce insulin costs, fund a Department of Homeland Security electronic health record system for immigrants and secure supply chains for drugs and medical devices manufactured outside the U.S. -- were absorbed into different pieces of legislation that became law.
The sprawling 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Kendall counties.