PRINCETON — Dani Brzozowski, the Democratic candidate for the 16th Congressional District, hosted her first town hall meeting on Thursday at Princeton Public Library in an effort to show she's more accessible than her opponent.
The gathering attracted a fairly full room of people from both La Salle and Bureau counties — about two dozen — interested in hearing Brzozowski’s ideas and values. Some also were there to express their frustrations about Brzozowski’s opponent this November, incumbent Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican. The L-shaped district spans westward from near the Indiana line to La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties and then northward to Rockford.
People who showed up for the Democrat’s event criticized Kinzinger’s unwillingness to debate his opponents and show up to local functions.
One man called out that Kinzinger is “missing in action,” while another man left Thursday’s meeting chanting, “Get Adam out.”
Brzozowski said she’s running on her willingness to be accessible, inquisitive and welcoming to her constituents. She offered up her cellphone number to attendees and encouraged phone calls to chat about everyday issues they face.
She pointed out Kinzinger’s lack of town hall meetings, saying the handful he’s hosted in the past 10 years he has been in office haven’t been that accessible.
“Our representative isn’t here. He’s not accessible at all,” she said. “I don’t know how any of us as representatives could do our jobs without getting face time with the people we’re supposed to be representing, right?”
Kinzinger pushed for more town halls when running for Congress in 2010 against Rep. Debbie Halvorson, saying at the time the congresswoman was “ducking” them.
His office has said in the past some groups have caused chaos at town halls to get media coverage, noting the congressman sought alternative ways to meet with the public, such as town halls via telephone and Facebook.
How is Brzozowski going to do it differently from Kinzinger? More face-to-face town hall meetings. And secondly, she’s going to keep her residence in La Salle County to be closer to the district she represents. She said she has no plans to move to Washington, D.C., if elected.
“That positions me well to stay in the community with all of you,” she said.
Aside from talk about her challenger, Brzozowski fielded a variety of questions ranging from job creation to the opioid crisis.
Scott Miller, of Peru, brought up the recent loss of local jobs with the closing of the Del Monte in Mendota and Hennepin power plant and asked how she would promote good-paying jobs.
Her solutions — raise minimum wage, create local clean-energy jobs and spend a significant amount on infrastructure. Brzozowski is a proponent of strengthening organized labor.
“I’m a big believer that unions are the best mechanism we have to dispute the big corporation power dynamic,” she said. “I’m talking things like collective bargaining, prevailing wage and the right to strike to ensure corporations aren’t preventing the organization of their workers.”
Brzozowski said she’s running for the 16th District largely in part of her strong belief in unions.
“We’ve empowered corporations and the very wealthy people who run them at the expense of everybody in this room. It’s outrageous, it’s crazy,” she said.
Brzozowski also favors providing what she calls “the basic needs of the people.” She’s for items, such as “Medicare for all” for those struggling with medical bills. She’s for affordable access to childcare for mothers looking to keep their place in the workforce. She’s also for lifting the cap off Social Security to help provide better funding for seniors citizens.
Michael Lee, of Princeton, asked Brzozowski about her ideas to help “break the divide” under the Trump administration.
Brzozowski said she plans to use civil discourse to get past “the status quo” and the people maintain “closed hearts and minds” for fear of losing their power and their ground.
“I believe when we come to the table with open hearts and open minds, we’re going to get more places ... Even if we have different ways of coming up with solutions to the problems, as long as we’re thinking about the same problems we’re going to get somewhere,” she said.