Candidate profile: Kevin Gaither

Name: Kevin Gaither

Office seeking: U.S. Representative — 15th Congressional District

Party: Democratic

Age: 42

City of residence: Charleston

Campaign website: https://gaither4il.com

Why are you running and why should people vote for you? The people deserve better representation than they’ve received over the last two decades. Instead of career politicians that represent their largest campaign donors and ignore the needs of hardworking families living in their district, I represent a new way forward. That is why instead of distancing myself from the people, I’ve been holding Town Halls, engaging people with many differing beliefs, listening and learning about what the 15th District actually needs to move forward in our modern economy. Both parties have failed to produce real results for Central and Southern Illinois. Mike Madigan helped draw this safe district specifically for John Shimkus, helping keep us in a stagnation economy, with crumbling infrastructure, while people flee the state. In just the last two years Rep. Shimkus has helped increase our deficits, increase the cost of our healthcare, and sat by while a Trade War increases prices for our citizens. People should vote for our campaign because we have a real generational vision to bring back our economy, create a solid foundation for early education, and bring down the high costs of healthcare while increasing access. I will stand up for our residents and speak out against policies that hurt our economy.

Were the steel tariffs the right approach in fighting foreign steel dumping? Why or why not? If not, what should have been done? American workers helped build our nation into the world’s largest economy, but in the last few decades many American businesses have chosen to abandon American workers and offshore American jobs without any consequences. Ignoring this problem has not resolved it, neither has this administration’s trade policies and the lack of leadership from our representative. Attacking it with tariffs has created a Trade War that will kill nearly half a million American jobs. So, no, this was not the right approach. These tariffs on our allies based on national security reasons are as costly to American jobs as they are to our international partnerships and long-term national security interests. Instead of retaliating against our allies, we should be working with them to isolate China and halt the dumping of Chinese steel globally. This would benefit steelworkers in Granite City, manufacturers in America, and many other connected industries. Instead, Congress has abdicated its responsibility and leadership. Under the current model, many manufacturers are laying off Americans as a direct result of these tariffs. A focused and strategic policy would preserve and expand jobs as well as putting steelworkers back to work on a long term basis without hurting American consumers.

What should be put in place or done to ensure fair trade agreements and long-term stability for everyone in your district? Trade Wars through tariff tactics is fraught with economic losers. Our farmers and consumers will be footing the bill for this misadventure. Meanwhile, the only new trade benefits achieved were focused on the automobile industry, which is important, but not as broad and comprehensive as workers hoped. Our farmers are seeing great yields during this year’s harvest but are being met with extremely low prices as the direct result of the Trade War. Many will be grateful to break even, and instead of having a plan to end this Trade War, Congress and the President are busy planning to spend billions of taxpayer money to pay off the farmers. We need an actual economic and trade strategic vision, not policy dictated and destroyed by Tweet. Long-term trade policy is successful when there is proper oversight and accountability. Under this lemming Congress, there never will be. Long-term stability in the 15th hinges on infrastructure. Specifically, we need broadband access, diverse energy investments, adequate funding of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and fixing our roads, bridges, and waterways.

Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? My opponent claimed he’d only run for two terms. Considering he’s been in Congress for over two decades, everyone agrees he lied. Term limits are an easy go-to issue for any challenger. That’s likely why my opponent lied. The people should have a choice to keep a hardworking representative who is listening to their needs, is answering their tough questions, and is doing the job. We’ve not seen that in our district for two decades. The goal of being a representative is making a positive impact on the lives of as many people in your district as possible. That is why I’ve held over 10 Town Halls in just three months with many more scheduled. My opponent has never held one single Town Hall in over two decades. The choice is clear.

Has enough been done to address the ongoing opioid epidemic? If not, what else should be done? Words alone are useless without actions to back them up. We can say we want to do something about overdoses, and then cut funding for healthcare and Medicaid. That’s been my opponent’s approach to the opioid and heroin epidemic which is failing. We have to expand mental health access which is not simple to do in a rural district. Expanding existing counseling and social work programs in our district’s great colleges and universities is a first step. We must prioritize education with a focus on dual diagnosis. We should forgive student loan debt for counselors who stay in the area. Drug courts need more funding throughout the area so that people receive treatment not jail time. We need more resources to help people living with addiction and mental health issues successfully transition into stable housing and employment. We also need to legalize marijuana. Overdose deaths have dramatically decreased in states that have legalized it. In states that have not, people still smoke weed. This also allows for a safer product and creates tax revenue which can help fund mental health programs. Not only is this common sense, it’s a jobs plan.

Was eliminating a fine for not having health insurance as required in the Affordable Care Act the right thing to do? Why or why not? What parts of the ACA should be changed? I supported refunding fines for low income workers hit with this penalty. Congress’ action will lead to increased out-of-pocket costs for too many Americans, driving up deficits. The ACA made progress on pre-existing conditions, decreasing the number of uninsured, and keeping adult children on parental plans. It failed on many other objectives. We need pharmaceutical price reforms. Our current representative will never support these reforms because he’s received over a million dollars from this industry. It’s a mistake to allow private insurance companies to dictate healthcare choices for Americans, as these companies are focused on their profits, not a person’s well-being. We need real insurance reform as well as real options for Americans. Our current representative will never go against the insurance and medical industry as he’s received $1.8 million from both. I’ve worked to protect and strengthen healthcare, standing up to those who would make cavalier decisions about the lives of others. I know what’s at stake, the lives and livelihoods of others. Healthcare shouldn’t make or break your life. It’s vital to be able to make a living and to draw breath. It’s a right.

Gun violence is a problem. What can and should be done to stop it? Background checks on gun sales are common sense. Banning weapons is not. We must hold those who commit violence with firearms accountable as well as those who allow their firearms to fall into the hands of criminals and children. Consistently, repeated violent offenders are back out on the streets and get their hands on firearms again. If we do not throw the book at violent offenders, we’re endangering our neighbors and law enforcement officers. I testified in my own friend’s murder trial. She was killed by one of these repeated violent offenders who was caught breaking a restraining order against her. He served two days of a four day sentence. She was murdered in less than three months. Our criminal justice system is failing us. We criminalize mental health, poverty and drug addiction while violent criminals are not the focus. We have to do better at protecting people from violence. Failure is not an option because lives are on the line.