Politics

Former Foster Staffer Fifth Democrat to Challenge Roskam

Carole Cheney says incumbent takes same ‘extreme positions’ as Donald Trump

Democratic challenger Carole Cheney said incumbent Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam has “lost touch with the people of his community.” (Carole for Congress via Facebook)

A fifth voice has joined the early chorus of Illinois Democrats looking to unseat GOP Rep. Peter Roskam.

Carole Cheney, who headed the district office of Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., from 2013 to 2017, announced Tuesday she would enter the Democratic primary race for the state’s 6th District, claiming Roskam had “lost touch with the people of his community,” NBC Chicago reported.

Roskam has come under fire from constituents this year for ducking town halls in his district, which comprises Chicago’s affluent western and northwestern suburbs.

In a March interview with the Chicago Tribune, the six-term incumbent dismissed town halls as an element of the political pageantry he said he generally tries to avoid, likening the representative-constituent meetings to “big circuses and other things.”

“I didn’t run for office to be a ringleader of that kind of circus,” he said. “I’m interested in trying to get solutions.”

Roskam has held one town hall this year, a 75-minute telephone call-in session.

Cheney hinted in an interview with Roll Call Wednesday that she will look to hammer Roskam on the campaign trail for his reputed aloofness at home.

“It’s more than just the town halls themselves, the issue generally is his unavailability to the people in his district,” Cheney said. “He used to savor town halls a few years back, but now that people are opposed to his position to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, he’s turned away from them.”

Roskam's office could not be reached for comment on this story.

Cheney said the bigger problem is that Roskam’s policies are out of touch with what voters really want, that Roskam is more concerned with riding the GOP leadership escalator than addressing the concerns of his constituents.

The strategy is clear: Cheney will seize every opportunity to tie Roskam to President Donald Trump, who lost the district to Hillary Clinton by seven points last November, four years after Republican Mitt Romney breezed past Barack Obama by eight points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.

“Clinton, not Trump won the district,” Cheney said, “and Roskam votes with Trump 97 percent of time.”

“People deserve to have a representative who gives them a voice, but Congressman Roskam has been more of a mouthpiece for Trump, not his constituents.”

Roskam has supported Trump’s calls to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, but has at times expressed displeasure at the caustic rhetoric the president deploys and some of his national security measures such as the first iteration of the executive order travel ban against seven majority-Muslim nations.

In May, Inside Elections with Nation L. Gonzales downgraded Illinois 6 from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

Democratic operatives have pegged districts like Roskam’s — mostly white, suburban, upper-middle class — as targets in their mission to flip 24 seats and regain a House majority.

Cheney and the other Democratic challengers believe they have a number of factors working in their favor to flip Illinois 6: Democrats hope to see a huge turnout across the state to oust embattled Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s up for re-election; and the district is younger, as more millennials move from Chicago out to the suburbs.

“The district is more moderate now,” Cheney said, “and Roskam does not reflect that.”

Cheney, who ran unsuccessfully for an Illinois House seat in 2012, will have to outduel at least four other Democratic candidates — Kelly Mazeski, Amanda Howland, Suzyn Price, and Austin Songer — to capture her party’s nomination.

She believes she is the most viable in a general election, citing her work at the national level in government and that she’s more relatable to the average Illinois 6 voter.

Cheney bills herself as a self-starter who waited tables and worked on-campus jobs to pay for her tuition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I share the experiences that a lot of people in this district have had,” she said. “I understand we want opportunity. I had opportunity growing up, even though my dad lost his job. I had affordable student loans and paid my way through college.”

But, she added, those loans have grown more onerous for students since the 1970s and ’80s, when she was in school, and with the current job market so bare, paying back those loans becomes even more daunting.

“My son, he’s a senior in college, and he’s scared he’s not going to be able to find a job to pay back his loans,” Cheney said.

“I can relate to the people here because I have experienced the same hardships they have.”

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