Race to Watch is a twice-weekly Ward Room column dedicated to helping voters familiarize themselves with candidates in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 general election. This edition's focus in Illinois' 9th Congressional District.
In the race for Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s 9th congressional district House seat, the incumbent Democrat is facing off against Republican newcomer Joan McCarthy Lasonde.
Schakowsky has served as the U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 9th congressional district since 1999. Prior to that, she served in the Illinois General Assembly for eight years.
The congresswoman is a pro-choice candidate who supports LGBTQ rights and comprehensive immigration reform. As a Jewish lawmaker, she has close personal ties to the State of Israel. She has pushed to ensure the country's security and has worked toward a peaceful relationship with Palestine.
Schakowsky recently introduced the Medicare Fair Drug Pricing Act that would require transparency and accountability in prescription drug prices and require negotiation for the price of certain drugs covered by Medicare Part D. The bill would lower the cost of many prescription drugs and open up lifesaving treatment to more Americans.
Additionally, Schakowsky supports raising wages, promoting union and collective bargaining rights and, as co-chair of the Democratic Seniors Task Force, expanding Social Security benefits to improve retirement security. She served on President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, offering her own proposal to balance the budget without cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
The Democrat also looks to expand access to reproductive health services, from birth control to prenatal care to abortion services. She also supports fetal tissue research.
Schakowsky and Lasonde hold differing positions on a variety of issues. According to her campaign site, Lasonde considers medical leave, paid time off, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and the Americans with Disabilities Act to be “burdens” placed on employers. Schakowsky sharply disagrees.
The congresswoman considers those programs “vital to working families.”
“I believe that someone who gets hurt on the job still needs to feed their family, I believe that someone with a disability should have the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential, and I believe that the out-of-touch, anti-worker policies that my opponent supports would do real harm to families making less than $150,000 per year,” Schakowsky said in a statement.
“The economic pressures that we face are real, but as a nation we cannot and will not create economic growth and shared prosperity by eliminating the Americans with Disabilities Act, medical leave, paid vacation and unemployment benefits,” the congresswoman added. “Working families have enough hardships to handle without gutting basic rights at work."
Lasonde is a socially moderate, pro-choice newcomer with no legislative background. She supports limited government, free markets, vigorous competition and efficient regulation where it’s needed. She has vowed to restore the country as an economic powerhouse and plans to make economic growth a top priority, something she claims her opponent pays no attention to.
“Economic growth is essential to paying for the services we need and balancing the budget,” Lasonde said in a statement. “Restoring growth levels like we’ve traditionally had must be a priority."
The Republican plans to address income and wealth inequality by creating job opportunities, improving schools and “breaking the cycle of dependence.” Lasonde claims income and wealth gaps will not be addressed through higher taxes and additional government programs.
The candidate, who is the daughter of two Chicago Public Schools teachers, supports school choice through a voucher system. She also supports term limits and has promised to limit herself to eight years in the House if she’s elected.
On immigration Lasonde supports comprehensive reform and a path to normalization for those already in the country. She is also a proponent of increased border security.
Additionally, Lasonde says she is a champion of bipartisanship in Washington.
“I want to end obstructionism in Congress,” Lasonde said. “I’ll work across aisle and cross my own party if I have to."
She has also vowed to fight Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on issues she deems wrong, like deporting millions of illegal aliens or broadening laws to allow individuals to sue journalists.
The Republican also looks to restore the United States’ relationship with Israel, which she feels has been adversely affected by the Iran nuclear deal and the 2015 boycott of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to congress. Schakowsky participated in the boycott.
Lasonde also opposes a plan to bring at least 100,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S., something Schakowsky has signed on to.
“With our own people living under bridges, we should not be increasing the Syrian refugee quota by tenfold, as my opponent wasn’t,” Lasonde said. “The welfare and safety of Americans must come first."
If elected, she has vowed to work for federal support for mass transportation and supports increasing the minimum wage to $9 or $10. Schakowsky has pushed for an increase to $15.
“The 9th District deserves a new congresswoman who reflects the values of its people: socially moderate and fiscally responsible,” Lasonde said. “Right now — we don’t have one."
Lasonde is a founding member of the Policy Circle, a women-run nonprofit focused on educating everyday Americans on state and federal policy. She also serves as a member of the board of directors of the Illinois State Crime Commission and was an officer at the New Trier Republican Organization.