Name: Kevin Gaither
Office seeking: U.S. Representative, 15th Congressional District
City of residence: Charleston
Campaign website: https://gaither4il.com
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I’m running to earn the support of the people of this district. I grew up in the 15th, worked in the fields, taught children, fought for others, and believe we can do better. Due to a lack of leadership and innovation from a two-decade incumbent and career politician in Washington as well as two political parties that have done little to nothing to improve our schools, economies and communities, I knew it was time to get back to work. That’s what I’ve been doing since before I graduated from Sullivan High School and wherever I’ve been. When I see a problem, I get to work. Even on the campaign trail, I saw a financial crisis at a public library on the Ohio River, called Comptroller Mendoza’s office, and within a week the library had received overdue funds owed to them by the state. This is the leadership style I will bring to every community in the 15th District. Instead of focusing on national or state political messaging, I’ve been having conversations with the people where they live, work, and gather. Stunningly, in many communities I’m the first candidate they’ve seen since Jim Edgar. And, I keep coming back, I keep listening, and I keep fighting for their vote and their communities. That’s what they should expect and what they deserve.
What are your views on the nation’s health care system? What needs to be changed, if anything? There’s growing support for universal healthcare. However, the actual policies haven’t caught up with reality. We not only have to be able to afford it, but the people have to be able to access their healthcare, and that’s one of the largest issues in the 15th District. Too often, we have to travel hundreds of miles to see the right kind of doctor to take care of medical issues. For too many that option is simply not realistic. We have to address those concerns directly instead of continuing to ignore what’s staring us in the face. Other states are paying for our medical professionals to stay there while they serve their residents. We should be offering the same deals to bring access to 15th District citizens. Also, instead of waiting around for universal healthcare, we should be expanding medical programs that are in demand: neurology, psychiatry, oncology, mental health treatment, etc. etc. We have great colleges and universities right here in Central and Southern Illinois. We could be hiring new faculty, increasing funding for grants and scholarships, and ending the brain drain. That’s why my focus is squarely on the needs of the 15th District. That’s what they deserve in a representative.
The federal budget is in deficit and the debt is growing. What should be done in order to balance the federal budget? First, we repeal the permanent corporate tax cuts and use these to fund a massive infrastructure bill that will jump-start both rural and urban economies. We need more than just roads and bridges, we need broadband internet in every county in the 15th District, helping our current businesses export their products, hire skilled workers, and encourage new business investments throughout the region. Second, we reign in the drivers of the high cost of healthcare. This will decrease Medicare and Medicaid costs. The fee for service model is broken. Prescription drugs are too high. The for profit insurance system sets up business and workers up for failure and drains the economy and government of revenue. Third, we listen to the Pentagon about wasteful spending in the DOD. Too often members of both parties ignore military brass in favor of bloating military budgets for pet projects. We can re-purpose contractors to making other top quality products. Finally, criminal justice reform will save billions a year. We’ve criminalized poverty, minority and mental illness and it’s costing us billions, breaking up families, and leaving communities and neighborhoods broken.
What local issues do you want to work on in Washington, D.C. and why? The economy, healthcare, and education are my top three issues to work on in Washington. After two decades with no leadership, there’s so much that must be done. Wage stagnation, high state tax burden, and opportunity drought are systemic problems that must be addressed on a consistent basis. The current energy regulation scheme is squashing our local oil and gas companies in favor of big corporations. Both parties are to blame. The current drops in crop yields and prices are a result in climate and trade wars. Industrialization of hemp would revolutionize the 15th economy, put people back to work, and turn downstate into a new economic export center. We’re missing out while Kentucky and Massachusetts are gaining ground. During World War II, hemp was a huge cash crop for the region. It should be again, especially with crop prices at $3,000 an acre. Increased grants and resources for art communities, public art, and trail systems throughout our beautiful district will drive tourism, create excitement, and give a facelift to struggling downtowns. This provides opportunities for summer art tours, investment, and connecting farm to town in unique ways that drive interest and involvement. By increasing access to healthcare, decreasing costs, and improving delivery, we can put people back to work, decrease the brain drain, and drive innovation at our public colleges and universities. Which brings us to education. We have to rethink education for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Connecting farm to renewable energy to climate will teach students math, science, reading and writing skills that include research, development, and community involvement.
Immigration into the United States continues to be a topic of debate. What changes should be made to the nation’s immigration system? There are many strong opinions on what needs to be done on immigration reform. There are real reasons for those strong feelings. Union workers see depressed wages. Illegal immigrants can receive substandard treatment. For me, both stances are based in the same basic principle: fighting for families and futures. The reason these parents brought their children here illegally was for survival and to have a chance at having a future. Most of us can relate to that. We should have a pathway to citizenship for the children brought here by no fault of their own. We must negotiate how best to do that so as to address those who are already in line before these immigrants. Also, our immigration system is outdated and broken. We have to reform it top to bottom. Most of our new illegal immigrant populations are actually from visa overstays. Currently, the government doesn’t track these. That’s a massive national security concern. When we update and fix the system, we can better manage immigration moving forward. Until we do that, we’re going to continue to have a rolling illegal immigration problem where both sides don’t solve anything.