Leslie Armstrong-McLeod: Candidate profile, Illinois 64th House District
Democrat Leslie Armstrong-McLeod is challenging incumbent Republican Tom Weber in the race for Illinois' 64th House District, which includes the Chain O' Lakes State Park, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst and portions of Crystal Lake, Island Lake and Wauconda.
Q: Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A: I believe in honoring each person's vote. I do not believe in term limits, but rather letting the voters set an elected official's term. That being said, I am interested in seeing a new vision and hearing new voices in the state legislature and would hope that the leadership also embraces change for the future.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how do you propose tackling it in the legislature?
A: In my district, I am listening to constituents who just want to be heard. Their concerns are currently going unheard. A representative needs to listen to and respond to all constituents, not just those they agree with. People in our district are concerned with policing policies, fair wage jobs and health care.
Q: The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A: I agree with the Fair Tax Proposal and welcome the shifting of the tax burden from low and middle-class families to those who have richly benefitted from the infrastructure and labor of workers.
Q: ComEd officials have acknowledged in an agreement with the federal government that it funneled money through contractors to friends and colleagues of Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan. What do you think should happen as a result of this. Specifically, how should potential legislation impacting ComEd be handled next session?
A: I think lobbying and ethics reform needs to happen in Illinois. I do not believe in elected officials accepting any gifts from lobbyists. From what I have read, the ComEd legislation had bipartisan support.
Q: Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
A: As an individual, I have strong beliefs that govern me personally. Those beliefs tend to line up with the ideals of the Democratic Party. That being said, I have voted for Republicans in the past if I felt they were the best person for the job. As a candidate, I feel it is my duty to represent the people in District 64. Not necessarily what I personally feel is best, but what is best for all of the people that I will represent.
Q: How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A: I think his handling of the COVID-19 crisis has been good. At times there are discrepancies in some of the guidance from one state agency to another, and that makes running businesses or schools difficult.
I think relying on science is the only way we are going to get past this pandemic. I wish we would have had strong federal leadership from the very beginning, but am very thankful that the governor stepped up and put the stay-at-home order in place. Had all states done that earlier, the country would not have 180,000-plus deaths.
I would hope that the Illinois legislature revisits some of their meeting rules to allow for remote sessions.
Q: Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A: The legislature is tasked with raising revenue through taxation. And while no one likes taxes, services for the greater good do need to be paid for. I feel that the purpose of government is to provide for the public good.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: Illinois is one of only three states that does not tax retirement income. Yes, I support a tax on retirement benefits.
Q: Should Illinois prohibit lawmakers from lobbying other levels of government? Should lawmakers be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after their term in office? For how long?
A: Yes. Lawmakers should be banned from becoming lobbyists.
Q: What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A: Prohibiting legislator lobbyists, disclosure of outside incomes, strengthening the office of the Legislative Inspector General, and create a process for censure and removal of leaders and chairs.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: Pensions are a promise, and the fact that pension funds were mismanaged in the past does not negate the obligation that the state owes to the workers who are due. Lawmakers need to fulfill their promise and manage pensions within the budget.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Yes. A great start would be to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Q: Protesters have massed in the streets in Chicago and other cities across Illinois for greater social justice and changes in the funding and responsibilities for police. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in Illinois? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? What, if any, changes should be made in funding and duties of police?
A: Systemic racism is everywhere and it is up to all of us to continue to work on our own biases and call out injustice when we see it. I do believe that changes need to be made to policing policies, including excessive use of force, no-knock warrants, transparency, additional training, and taking a look at restructuring funding and duties of the police. The militarization of law enforcement needs to stop.