Candidate Full Name: Raja Krishnamoorthi
Office: US Representative, 8th District
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
1. Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office.
I started in very humble economic circumstances in life, but thanks to excellent public schools, great parents, and essential government programs, my family and I made it into the middle class. I aspire to help other striving, working families to do the same, and I have the experience and background to do it.
I have spent a number of years in public service, compiling a record of reform and integrity. I served as issues director for Barack Obama's underdog 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, which prevailed largely on the strength of then-State Senator Obama's record and ideas. I was humbled when Attorney General Lisa Madigan chose me to serve as a Special Assistant Attorney General in the newly created Public Integrity Unit to root out fraud and corruption perpetrated against Illinois taxpayers. Similarly, I was honored to be appointed to the board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which finances low and moderate-income housing. Later on, I became Deputy Illinois Treasurer, where I helped reform the state's unclaimed assets program and returned millions of dollars to Illinois residents. Most recently, I served as Vice-Chair of the Illinois Innovation Council, which is helping to revitalize our state's high-tech sector.
For the past six years, I have worked in the private sector as the president of small businesses in the semiconductor and clean energy sectors. In that capacity, I have witnessed firsthand how the government can help or hurt small businesses through its tax, regulatory and contracting policies. I have seen the challenges facing today's workforce, such as those created by global competition, the changing economy, and by family demands. Furthermore, I have sought to expand opportunities in high-tech fields to children and veterans who lack access by establishing a non-profit organization called InSPIRE, which excites inner-city children and veterans to get involved in the solar industry.
I am eager to take this knowledge and experience to Congress, where I will work tirelessly to promote policies that create opportunity for all Americans and make our country stronger and more competitive. As in my previous endeavors, I will look to cooperate and compromise with those on the other side of the aisle while remaining steadfast in upholding the progressive principles in which I believe. Most of all, I will fight to keep our country a beacon of hope and opportunity for people from around the world - like my parents, who came here in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their children. I've lived the American Dream. Now I'm determined to keep it alive.
2. With this being a presidential election year, who would you like to be elected President and why?
In choosing a President, voters in the 8th District of Illinois will be best served by someone who offers a vision for advancing working families and helping Americans get and stay in the middle class. For that reason, either Democratic candidate would offer a substantial improvement over their Republican counterparts, as both Democrats share a vision for helping working families succeed by raising the minimum wage, fighting for equal pay for equal work for women, and strengthening the crucial programs Americans rely upon in retirement such as Social Security and Medicare.
3. The fight against ISIS is on everyone's mind, especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. What would your plan be in the fight against ISIS and for the national security of the U.S?
The challenge to our nation is to combat terrorism without sacrificing the rights and liberties that are the bedrock of our democracy. Banning visits to our country by members of a particular religious group or suggesting the return of World War II-style internment camps is the wrong way to go. Rather than mass monitoring of private communications, we need to narrow surveillance targets to specific individuals for whom there is sufficient evidence or reasonable suspicion of terrorist involvement, subject to a judge's review. Our rights and liberties are our most precious gifts as Americans, and they must be protected.
That said, we can still take strong steps to protect our security at home and abroad. I believe the U.S. can and must contribute to military operations aimed at destroying ISIS. But as we have learned through our involvement in two recent wars in the Middle East, U.S. soldiers should not be leading those operations. Rather, we should support the efforts of those who live in the region through training, logistical help and coordinated air strikes. This is largely the policy being followed by the Obama Administration and, based on recent losses by ISIS, it seems to be getting results. The reintroduction of U.S. troops would only aid ISIS in characterizing this as a religious war and help in its recruitment efforts. We should instead focus our efforts on building and supporting a military force made up of residents of the region.
Another important way to end the fighting in the region - and the stream of millions of refugees from the region - is to pursue diplomatic solutions, such as a negotiated end to the civil war in Syria. I am under no illusion that this will be quick or easy. But a political solution, involving our allies and other countries in the region, is the most durable way to end the killing and start the reconstruction of Syria, which in its present form is a failed state that breeds terrorism. We should continue to pursue diplomatic negotiations -- and include all those with influence in the region, such as Iran and Russia. The only beneficiaries of the continued fighting in Syria and throughout the Middle East are radical terrorist organizations like ISIS who fill the political vacuum and provide an outlet for those driven by religious hatred and despair.
4. Do you support a federal assault weapons ban? Why or why not? What other federal gun control measures would you support?
Yes, these weapons have no civilian or hunting purposes, and the risks are simply too great to justify private citizens being allowed to own weapons designed simply to kill as many people as quickly as possible. I proposed an agenda for common-sense gun reform that includes: (i) expanding background checks to all gun sales (closing both the gun-show and terrorist watch list loopholes); (ii) building a better information system on those who should be blocked from weapons purchases including convicted criminals, those subject to orders of protection, and those with mental health issues; and (iii) ending the ban on research into gun safety and gun violence.
5. What are your thoughts on what has been done so far with immigration reform?
We must always secure our borders, which have become porous over time. In addition to that imperative, however, I support a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who have no criminal record, are willing to learn English, pay back fines and taxes, and go to the back of the line behind those who have legally immigrated and wish to become permanent residents of the U.S. Furthermore, I support granting regular status to DREAMers who came to this country as young children and whose decision to come was out of their own hands. Many of them have meaningfully contributed to America, especially through service in the Armed Forces. Overall, I would support legislation to turn President Obama's executive orders on immigration policy into law. That said, I hope that Congress working with the President can pass comprehensive immigration reform that tackles the issues above in a holistic fashion along with challenging issues related to retaining the best and brightest high-skilled talent from around the world to help make our economy more vibrant and prosperous for all Americans.