BATAVIA – Richard Johnson of Elgin and Daniel Ugaste of Geneva are vying to represent the 65th State Representative District in the Nov. 6 midterm election, seeking to fill the vacancy to be left by Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, who did not seek a second term.
The two were among several hopefuls on the Nov. 6 midterm ballot who participated in a candidate forum Oct 19 at Batavia City Hall, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County.
Both drew contrasts between their reasons for seeking state office, with Ugaste focused on the state’s budget woes while Johnson’s focus was more on supporting public schools.
“Public schools is where we train citizens,” Johnson said. “Privatization of public schools is not the way to go. … Your ZIP code should not determine the quality of your education.”
In particular, Johnson, a public school teacher, said it was the election of President Trump and his choice of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary that prompted him to run for office.
Ugaste, a worker’s compensation attorney, said he was running to address the state’s fiscal mess and to make sure the state is supporting the people it is supposed to serve.
“The state is really a shell of itself of what it once was,” Ugaste said. “We need to move the state forward with proper spending, without any new taxes or tax increases.”
Both supported an end to gerrymandering districts by creating an independent commission to draw legislative maps.
They differed on how to remedy the state’s financial woes.
Johnson said corporations and businesses should be paying their fair share of taxes, that a third of Illinois businesses do not pay.
A sound infrastructure and having a qualified workforce attract business, and the way to a qualified workforce is to fund education, Johnson said.
Ugaste said his plan would be to rein in spending.
“We have no money," Ugaste said. "We are a broke state. We have pension liabilities. We have a backlog of bills in the hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Another way to attract business would be to reform workers’ compensation laws, Ugaste said.
“We will not only attract business back to the state, [we wouild] save the state and every unit of government money because they all pay workers’ compensation benefits as well,” Ugaste said. “And they are paying it at a rate that is far too high compared to the rest of the country.”
To a question about tax incentives for large corporations, Johnson said he was in favor of cutting taxes for all property owners.
“My grandfather is 84, he is on a fixed income, yet his property taxes continue to rise,” Johnson said. “I’m OK with making sure I bring in Amazon and have them not pay taxes for however long that might be. I’d like to see us do that for our homeowners.”
Ugaste said tax incentives are not fair to the businesses already here and paying taxes.
To a question about moving Illinois to 100 percent clean energy, Ugaste said he supported moving forward on it, but to recognize that this type of change does not happen overnight.
“We should be working on the federal level, doing it as a nation as a whole,” Ugaste said.
Johnson said solar and wind energy is largely untapped in Illinois, though the state has already adopted some clean energy laws that have led to some job creation.
On banning the manufacture, sale and possession of assault weapons, Johnson said he was in favor of common sense gun laws and banning bump stocks or any other accessory to create an automatic weapon.
Ugaste said he is pro-second amendment, but supports banning bump stocks and making sure some weapons do not get into the hands of people with mental illness who have the desire to hurt others.
To a question of what Illinois would do to preserve a woman’s right to choose if the U.S. Supreme Court repeals Roe v Wade, Johnson said he is pro-choice and Ugaste said he is pro-life.
Johnson said he did not know what could be done without knowing what the high court decides.
Ugaste said he supports three exceptions to abortion, if a woman’s life is in danger and in the cases of rape or incest.