Brendan Kelly Candidate Profile

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. BND file photo

Name: Brendan Kelly

Office seeking: U.S. Representative, 12th Congressional District

Party: Democratic

Age: 41

City of residence: Swansea

Campaign website: Brendan4southernil.com

Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I’m running for Congress because like so many folks in Southern Illinois I have a feeling in my gut that things are deeply wrong. I know that we live in the greatest country in the world, but those in power are tearing it apart. While our politicians divide us and turn us against each other, wealth is being consolidated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. While the elites on the coasts are doing well, families in Southern Illinois are still struggling. This is not a “red” or “blue” district or a “left” versus “right” district. This is an up versus down district of middle class, blue collar, working families who are angry at the out of touch career politicians at the top of both parties and for good reason. I’m running for the laid off steelworker in Granite City, the single mom in Centreville, the college student in Carbondale, the nurse in Marion, and the retired coal miner in Elkville. The political class has given them many reasons to be angry, but they know anger is not enough. We have to act by removing those in Congress who have forgotten them and elect leaders who will rebuild Southern Illinois.

What are your views on the nation’s health care system? What needs to be changed, if anything? First, ripping away healthcare coverage from 38,000 people in Southern Illinois is not the answer. Repeated attempts to cut healthcare coverage have only lead to higher and higher costs and a resurgence of uninsured families. The protections for pre-existing conditions, allowing kids to stay on their parents plan, and a broader base of covered families must be shored up, not torn down. Treating healthcare- and lives- like a political football has to stop and bi-partisan efforts to reduce costs must be our first priority. We also need to allow the government to negotiate drug prices. Right now, Big Pharma is able to wring every last penny out of us. Our seniors are paying outrageous prices on drugs the rest of the world is getting for a fraction of the cost. Epi-pens for our kids cost hundreds of dollars per shot and people are dying because they can’t afford their diabetes meds. Big Pharma cannot be allowed to set prices or set the agenda for Southern Illinois. Lastly we need to strengthen Medicaid and Medicare, not gut it. Those in power in Congress attacked healthcare and now their plan to go after Medicare is dead wrong.

The federal budget is in deficit and the debt is growing. What should be done in order to balance the federal budget? In the Navy, I saw often how political decisions caused waste and abuse that undermined the military. As a public official I’ve made tough decisions necessary to balance and sustain the budget of my office. Congress has too often neglected its duty to aggressively oversee the executive branch under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The list of wasteful, ineffective and sometimes fraudulent operation of the federal government is long and demands sustained attention. Eliminating the overlap and fragmentation of federal services and operations simply has to be done. There are reports upon reports identifying these problems. We simply have to reach across party lines, show some courage and get it done. Illinois also has far too many layers of government that are inefficient and unaccountable to the public. Congress should implement tighter parameters to prevent federal funding from subsidizing local and state layers of government that need to go. Yet instead of ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being put to good use, high-ranking Washington officials fly first class, stay in five-star hotels, and vacation in Europe on our dime. Instead of doing their job, Congress stands by while their allies take trips that families here in Southern Illinois could never afford.

What local issues do you want to work on in Washington, D.C. and why? Far too often the media and consultants are focused on the tweet of the day instead of what’s happening here in the Heartland of America. We need leaders that listen to the people and focus on rebuilding Southern Illinois. Opioids have wrecked our communities, yet Congress fails to stop the flow of heroin and fentanyl into our country and fails to reign in the power of Big Pharma. Month after month families see prescription costs go up, the cable bill goes up, education costs go up, and childcare costs go up. With these repeated hits we have to rebuild our families. Our bridges are crumbling, roads are riddled with potholes, and kids and businesses all around Southern Illinois don’t have sufficient internet access. We need to put our brothers and sisters in organized labor back to work with hard dollar investments in the infrastructure of this district. Rebuilding infrastructure will allow our businesses to bring new products and services to the global marketplace Southern Illinois needs to thrive. And most importantly we have to rebuild our trust in democracy and trust in each other. Our democracy is rotting because of unlimited dark, foreign money that is flooding into the political system that is used to turn us against other. Both parties are too controlled by the powerful few so when someone shows some courage and reaches out to get something done they get blasted by the big dollars from either side. This deep division, driven by unlimited campaign money is the greatest threat to our country today.

Immigration into the United States continues to be a topic of debate. What changes should be made to the nation’s immigration system? Immigration continues to be a topic of debate because Congress refuses to come together and solve this issue. Our representatives default to the same tired old positions rather than thoughtful substantive change. There is a long list of measures most folks agree on, but the career politicians in D.C. who benefit from dysfunction allow the endless fights and weaknesses in our immigration policy to go on. We do need to secure the border. As a prosecutor, I’ve seen the flood of opioids and drugs come up from our borders and through our airports and seaports. I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that has been wrought by the cartels and Chinese suppliers. Stopping the flow of illegal drugs by securing our borders is part of the solution. However, we also have kids who were brought to our country and lived their entire lives here. They are Americans in their hearts who simply need to be Americans on paper. Let’s sew them into the fabric of this country instead of isolating and rejecting them.