Candidates make their case for how they would represent sprawling, Latino-centric district

With less than a month until Election Day, Democratic state Rep. Delia Ramirez points voters to the historic nature of her candidacy in a new congressional district that runs from Chicago's Northwest Side about 30 miles west into DuPage County.

"This moment allows for the constituents of the 3rd Congressional District to elect the first Latina in the entire Midwest to go to Congress," Ramirez said.

Hoping to play spoiler, Winfield Republican Justin Burau portrays himself as an outsider willing to buck party orthodoxy.

"We need someone that is going to hold parties accountable, hold people accountable," Burau said.

But with a relative lack of funding, the first-time GOP candidate faces a taller task in November. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the open seat as "solid Democrat."

The boundaries for the 3rd - stretching from Chicago's Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods into historically red DuPage - were drawn by Democrats in the state legislature to create a second Latino-centric congressional district in Illinois. About 44% of the voting-age population is Hispanic or Latino.

"While the demographics of the district will probably shift some during the decade, this district will be a safe seat for the Democrats until the next remap in 2031 unless we get some seismic changes in the politics of the western part of the district," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Ramirez has run on her legislative experience and a progressive platform, earning endorsements from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García.

Ramirez made a primary-day campaign stop with DuPage Democrats in West Chicago, where she would open a district office if she prevails in November. Ramirez has stressed her compelling backstory and accessibility to potential constituents in a district that is "racially, geographically and economically" diverse.

"It absolutely needs someone that understands what it's like to grow up poor, to be the daughter of immigrants, and also what it's like to work with people in Wheaton or in West Chicago to talk about how to retire with dignity," Ramirez said during a Daily Herald forum.

Burau is a vice president of a mortgage company and has never held public office.

"Politics wasn't part of my everyday life up until a couple of years ago. After losing my father and my best friend to the same type of brain cancer, glioblastoma, I saw the failures that we have with Medicare and our health system," Burau said.

He notes Medicare covers only certain people younger than 65 who have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for at least two years. People with end-stage renal disease or ALS, however, have immediate access to Medicare.

Burau advocates for adding glioblastoma patients, like his late father, to the 24-month Medicare waiver program, regardless of insurance status. The brain cancer has an average survival rate of 12 to 14 months.

"These people are fighting for more time with their families, and they don't have 24 months to wait for these benefits," Burau said. "Even if families have insurance, they are often denied access to treatments because of cost because they have terminal cancer. That is unacceptable."

The daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, Ramirez became the executive director of a homeless shelter at 21. She was first elected to the state House in 2018. Her husband is a recipient of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and she has amplified calls for a pathway to citizenship.

"It's personal for me. I have family who've lived in this country for 35 years and unfortunately still don't have a pathway to citizenship," she said at a League of Women Voters event in Glen Ellyn.

Burau said he would support a citizenship path if "Dreamers" meet specific requirements. "None of the immigration reform starts without securing our border first," Burau said.

In Springfield during the pandemic, Ramirez pushed to expand coverage of Medicaid regardless of a person's immigration status.

She is a "firm supporter" of Medicare for All and codifying abortion rights into federal law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

"Unlike my opponent, I do believe that Congress has a responsibility to protect a woman's right to choose," Ramirez said.

Burau, by contrast, called abortion policies a "state issue."

"Although I do believe in a woman's right to choose, I do think Rep. Ramirez and the supermajority Democrats in Springfield have gone to the extremes with this," Burau said, citing a 2021 law repealing a requirement for parental notification of abortions.

On gun control, Ramirez supports a federal ban on ownership of military-style weapons. Burau opposes a ban, but he's in favor of raising the minimum age to purchase those weapons to 21.

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