Democratic congressional candidate Dani Brzozowski said the political landscape of the 16th Congressional District, which includes all of LaSalle, Livingston, Bureau, Boone, Grundy, Iroquois, Lee and Ogle counties and parts of DeKalb, Ford, Stark, Will and Winnebago counties, is changing.
Considered a red district and held by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, since 2012, Brzozowski believes she can flip the district come November.
“It’s not as red as it was 10 years ago,” said Brzozowski, who lives in LaSalle. “A lot has happened that makes it much more favorable for a Democrat.”
She points to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker losing to former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner by less than 1 percentage point in the district and for the first time, more people grabbed a Democratic ballot in the district than Republican for the primaries as fueling optimism. Both Kinzinger and Brzozowski ran unopposed in the primary. On the Republican ballot, President Donald Trump did not have a serious challenger in the primary, while the Democratic nomination still was undecided during Illinois’ primary.
She said the district is growing more ethnically diverse and the eastern edge is seeing more suburban sprawl.
Brzozowski, who is the chairwoman of LaSalle County Democrats, said she is different than other challengers before her, because she is much more connected politically.
As a chairwoman, she said she’s made connections within the district, knows the issues and has received high-profile endorsements from Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.
“I recognized there is a desire to flip the district, and I’m going to be the person to do it,” she said.
Brzozowski said health care is the No. 1 issue in the district, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only drawn more attention to that point as people lost their health care coverage when they lost their jobs.
Calling health care a human right, she believes in extending Medicare for all and capping prescription drug costs.
“Universal coverage is the goal,” she said. “ ... (T)he federal government has a responsibility to make sure basic human rights are met.”
She said prior to the Affordable Care Act, 60,000 people were uninsured within the 16th District. That number has decreased to 40,000, but she believes more needs to be done to extend publicly-funded health benefits to the entire population.
“Medicare is the right solution, because it the most efficient and effective system,” Brzozowski said.
A former small business owner of Sweet Sadie’s Playspace in LaSalle, Brzozowski said providing health insurance is expensive for small business owners and hinders potential entrepreneurs.
She said the two questions she hears all the time about expanding Medicare for all is whether it will increase taxes and if people will lose their ability to make their own medical choices. She said her plan will not increase taxes on the lower or middle class and she said instead of having to choose between a doctor in a provider’s network, Medicare for all would allow citizens to choose between any doctor.
She admits presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has not endorsed a Medicare-for-all policy, but she said it is her hope Congress will help him get there.
At the end of March, Brzozowski had $17,034 cash on-hand for her campaign against Kinzinger, who has more than $1.6 million cash on-hand.
“He hasn’t had to spend much money to campaign, and it’s allowed him to stockpile,” Brzozowski said. “He’s been allowed to grow that money based on special interests. We want to be able to make him spend that money.”
Brzozowski said her campaign has been funded mostly through donations from within the district, and she said it’s too early to say if Democrats will contribute money. She said her party has provided her with insights into the political landscape, which has been priceless.
“I’ve been talking to voters on both sides,” she said. “I walk away knowing that even if we disagree on nuances or solutions, they know that if I’m elected, I’m going to do what’s in their best interests.”