In a Ward Room Q&A, Debbie Halvorson talks about her views on gun control, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s ethics problems, and why she can bring a third airport to the Southland.
Ward Room: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments during the term you spent in Congress?
Halvorson: We were able to get over $100,000 in back pay for a lot of our veterans' benefits. I know everybody wants to talk about what happens in Washington, D.C., but we also have to remember what happens back here at home. Serving on the Veterans Committee, to make sure than in those two years that Silver Cross Hospital was going to be vacant, that we were able to get that to become a mega clinic for our veterans. By working together with Union Pacific and BNSF and Center Point and the Army Corps of Engineers and the environmentalist, we were able to work through several projects which ended up creating two different locations of intermodals. One is about 7,000 jobs, and one so far has created 650.
Ward Room: Was there any legislation?
Halvorson: I introduced six or seven jobs bills. Many of them were folded into the bigger jobs bill. In fact, one in particular ended up in President Obama's HIRE Act, and that was the Investment Tax Credit, where companies could deduct up to $250,000 to retool their company and manufacuring base to be more competitive with others. We're seeing that coming to fruition now with a lot of our jobs coming back from China and hiring going on.
Ward Room: Why is the Southland such a transportation hub, and do you have a plan to bring a third airport there?
Halvorson: It's the inland port of the country. Shanghai and Hong Kong are the only two inland ports larger than the Chicago area. I also was the leader in keeping our waterways clean and getting $49 million to fix a bridge in the water in Morris. It was the most hit bridge in the country. I am for an airport, but I don't personally plan on building it, because I don't need a legacy. I don't need something with my name on it, like he (Jesse Jackson Jr.) does. He's put all his eggs into one basket, because this is the only thing he cares about. He cares about himself, and he cares about an airport. He doesn't care about the people of the 2nd Congressional District. The airport's never been in his district, and people are very angry that he has spent all his time, money and effort working on something that's not even in his district.
Ward Room: Wouldn't it be in this new district?
Halvorson: It would be in the new district. This is what he brags about. Under Build Illinois, Governor Ryan gave every member of Congress $100 million to put into their district. He brags instead of putting it into road improvements and sidewalks in Riverdale and Harvey, he cares so much about this airport, that he put all his $100 million into the 11th District.
Ward Room: Did you do any work towards an airport when you were in Congress?
Halvorson: Absolutely, and when I was in the state senate I did, because it's basically a state issue. IDOT is going to run it. What I did was, I put together a governance plan, and a development district which both passed the Senate, and he made sure it was stopped in the House. This guy is a divide and conquer guy. I've already proved in two years that I can bring large-scale projects. He hasn't. Once Will County has a seat at the table, and you have an open bid process, instead of a hand-picked company mired in scandal like you have right now, people will be more trustworthy. They don't trust him, and they don't want him anywhere near this area.
Ward Room: Let me ask you about his gun ad. You were endorsed by the NRA in your re-election campaign. Of course, you were running in a very different district. Are you seeking the NRA's endorsement in this election, and representing this district, would you take the same stance on gun rights as you took in the 11th District?
Halvorson: I believe in the Second Amendment, and the law-abiding citizen to own a gun. We must keep the guns out of the hands of criminals, and more laws are only going to harm the law-abiding citizens. There is nothing I could have done, and my heart goes out to any parent who goes through. I have sat with parents who have lost a child to gun violence. It is the saddest thing in the world, but one law or another law is not going to stop a criminal from doing a drive-by shooting or going in and committing a crime. People need to talk about education, and we need to talk about jobs. That's the best thing we can talk about, because if everybody had a job, we would have less violence.
Ward Room: But as somebody who now wants to represent a district with a significant Chicago population, do you still stand by the amicus brief you filed against McDonald v. Chicago?
Halvorson: Absolutely. Just because I represent a different district doesn't mean I have a different stance. People in Chicago don't feel like he does. People in Chicago applaud my stance, because nobody's strong enough to stand up and say, "We need to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals." How has this been working? Chicago's the only place other than D.C. where they've banned the ownership of guns, and you should ask the congressman how many he owns, and he lives in Chicago.
Ward Room: How many do you own?
Halvorson: One. It's actually in my husband's name. It's a rifle, because it's for hunting.
Ward Room: When you were in Congress, you voted for Obamacare, but you didn't commit until the very last minute.
Halvorson: It doesn't matter. The vote came up. I voted for it. When you represent a district, you should take the time to listen to the people who have something to say about it. I knew by the time the vote came up where I would be. It doesn't matter when you commit to a bill. Shame on him for committing before he even listened to his constituents.
Ward Room: What role do you think that played in your 2010 election?
Halvorson: It probably had a large role in my defeat, but I don't blame the president like he claims in now another ad. All his ads are false. He can't stand on his own record, so he has to lie about mine. What I said was, "Voting for that health care bill probably had something to do with my loss; however, I would never have done anything different." I stood with the president, and I would stand with him again. He doesn't have a clue what it's like to grow up poor, what it's like not to have health care, like I had to watch my mother suffer from breast cancer in her 40s, without health care, and pray every day that she lived, 'til she could get Medicare at 65.
Ward Room: Did she?
Halvorson: Yeah, she lived. She's still alive. But I swore nobody was going to have to go through that again. I knew how I was going to vote, but as a member of Congress, I owed it to my constituents to listen to them. The only thing you have in this business is your vote, and if you give it up too early, shame on you.
Ward Room: You claim you voted with the president more often than Congressman Jackson did.
Halvorson: You just need to go to cq.com, and you'll see that. Congressional Quarterly shows that I voted with the president 90 percent of the time; he voted with him 79, because he voted against all of the president's jobs bills.
Ward Room: Do you think his ethics problems are still going to be an issue in this next term, or do you think that's all been resolved?
Halvorson: His ethics have led to his ineffectiveness, and with the governor going to jail this week, everybody's telling me, "Don't worry about it, because he's going to jail next." And I said, "No, he's not. Just let that go. We need to change direction in who we elect. Don't wait for something like that to happen." They really believe that if the governor goes to jail for trying to sell the seat, that he should go to jail for allegedly trying to buy it.
Ward Room: Do you think he did anything illegal?
Halvorson: All I know is the 65-page report I read that throughout is says "probable cause."
Ward Room: Do you he should be indicted? Do you think he should go to jail?
Halvorson: I'm not a lawyer, but they already took care of that. I heard it's because he wore a wire and was an informant, and you do that if you're guilty.