2022 Election Primary: 14th Congressional District

District 14 GOP forum focuses on inflation, ‘parents rights,’ immigration

The candidates were largely in agreement on most issues, and supportive of former President Donald Trump’s policies

election 2022, plainfield, 14th congressional district

Four of the five Republican candidates running in the 14th Congressional District took turns slamming Democrats for their handling of the nation’s economy and highlighting various cultural issues during a forum Tuesday in Plainfield.

The Plainfield Township Republican Organization hosted the forum that included Michael Koolidge of Rochelle, Jack Lombardi of Manhattan, James Marter of Oswego and Jaime Milton of Fox River Grove. Scott Gryder, the Kendall County Board chairman, did not attend.

The five candidates are competing to win the June 28 primary and for a chance to take on two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, in the recently redrawn 14th District.

The four candidates present for Tuesday’s forum faced questions centered on the big issues driving Republican politics as of late, namely soaring inflation.

election 2022, plainfield, 14th congressional district

Koolidge said the record increases in prices for everything from gas to food is “the biggest issue in this race.”

“The Democrats are way late to this,” Koolidge said. “They don’t know what the heck to do.”

The candidates seemed to be in agreement that the U.S. should become less reliant on energy sources from overseas and drill for more oil on American land.

Marter also called for Congress to curb federal spending as a way to combat rising inflation.

“My plan is to go to Washington and be relentless in cutting the size and scope of the federal government,” he said.

Milton criticized Democratic lawmakers for pushing a massive social spending plan she referred to as the “Build Back Broke” deal.

All four also said they consider themselves “America first” candidates, a slogan used frequently by former President Donald Trump. The candidates took positions on issues from trade to immigration, which were reminiscent of Trump’s policies.

election 2022, plainfield, 14th congressional district

But they also emphasized other culture war issues that have stoked anger among conservatives looking to flip control of the House of Representatives toward Republicans this fall.

The candidates were asked what they would do to protect “parental rights,” a reference to debates across the country over the content of school curriculum and some parents’ objections to the inclusion of sex education and other material.

The questioner also accused U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland of calling parents concerned about school policies “domestic terrorists.” Garland did not actually call parents “domestic terrorists” but was quoting from a letter from a school board association that used the term, according to the nonpartisan website FactCheck.org.

election 2022, plainfield, 14th congressional district

Still, the candidates took aim at Garland, arguing that parents were justified in their concerns about school curricula.

Lombardi accused Garland of trying to intimidate parents.

“The federal government is not going to step on the rights of parents or our children, ever, especially if I’m your congressman,” he said.

Koolidge said it was outrageous to call concerned parents “domestic terrorists.”

The candidates also took issue with U.S. support of Ukraine’s efforts to fight back against a Russian invasion earlier this year. They argued Congress should have used the money it approved to help the Ukrainians to instead secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We don’t have the financial resources to have this discussion,” Milton said of financially supporting Ukraine, although she called the invasion “a terrible thing.”

election 2022, plainfield, 14th congressional district

The candidates were largely in agreement on many of the issues discussed, including their opposition to the Patriot Act, a law instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They also were uniformly against voting for bills that include federal money for localized projects, commonly referred to as “pork barrel” spending.

Dale Fontana, the chairman of the Plainfield Township Republican Organization, said he thinks GOP voters will be most focused on the “freedom issues” related to school policies and COVID-19 mitigations, as well as the economy.

When asked what he thinks a successful candidate in the race will have to prove to voters in order to win June 28, Fontana said he thinks it’s important for them to follow through on their campaign promises.

“They have to prove, in my opinion, that when they assume the office that they’re running for, that they actually do what they promised to,” Fontana said, “that they actually take the tough vote to protect the values they espouse in their campaigns.”