The winner of next Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District will take on first-term congressman Bryan Steil in the Nov. 3 elections.
The Gazette asked candidates Josh Pade and Roger Polack about their policy views.
Gazette: Name the five biggest threats to the public that Congress should concern itself with.
Polack: 1. COVID-19 and other pandemic threats: “Congress has the ability to fund preparations for that, and I think with the fact that the Trump administration was unprepared for this is an example of where Congress can step in.”
2. Health care: “This pandemic has shown where we need reform of our health care system to make sure all individuals have access to quality, affordable health care.”
3. Election system: “We have to make sure that it’s free from foreign influence and you have the right controls in place to make sure countries cannot meddle in our elections. Congress could impose automatic sanctions on any country found to be meddling in our elections.”
4. Disunity: “We need leadership in this country that can bridge the divide that our country currently faces. It is difficult in modern history to find a time when the United States was more divided, and I think the current leadership is exacerbating that, and we need to bridge that divide and heal communities.”
5. Income inequality: “That goes beyond race but certainly is tied into racial inequality. But the fact that there’s such a large gap between the wealthy and poor, and the middle class is being hollowed out, is a huge threat to our country. It leads to what we are seeing today: People are dissatisfied with our government. It creates risk in our country, and people’s ability to save and provide for their families and ensure children have access to health care and have their basic needs met are required for next generation to thrive, and our country is only as strong as we prepare our next generation to be.”
Pade: 1. China: “Right now with the political divisiveness at home and the COVID crisis, America is somewhat distracted. The Chinese want to be the most influential country in the world. ... America needs to step up its game, to strengthen the relationships we have with our allies and expand our global marketplace, because if we want our values to be priorities, we need to be strong in the world, at home and abroad, and (address) threats, whether it be to our companies, cyber security or the threats to our global influence.”
2. Russia: “When you look at what’s happening with the Trump administration’s undermining the rule of law … undermining democracy at home while Russia is trying to undermine our democracy abroad, (reasserting) the core tenets of our democracy ... and then ensuring that we defend our allies in Europe against Russia, is extraordinarily important in this time.”
3. Climate change: “We’re reaching a critical juncture where we can solve climate change and grow the economy and be a leader in the world on energy innovation, manufacturing innovation and transportation innovation, bring back a lot of the technology that we’ve ceded to China, because they’re pursuing green energy.”
4. Shrinking middle class: “The middle class American Dream ... seems farther and farther out of reach for so many people. ... What I want to see is a return to the priorities that we had when we invested in people, when we ensured people could go to college and not be laden with debt, when you could get a decent job that had a union and paid good wages and had a pension. That’s not a radical idea. To me what’s radical is today’s economy, where we give trillions of dollars to companies that have no incentive to pay their employees well, to ensure they have free health care, that the only kind of tax incentive is to ensure the executives’ wealth continues to grow.”
5. Cyber security: “We need national data-privacy standards. We need to expand cyber security, not just for the federal government but for our state and local governments and small businesses that just don’t have the resources to protect themselves.”
Gazette: What do you think of the call to defund the police?
Polack: “I don’t think defunding the police is the right move. Budgets can be looked at, and seeing where there is ability to reallocate funds. … I do think there are huge problems with racial inequality and reform of the U.S. criminal justice system is necessary, and I think the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a great step in that direction. I would have fully supported that in the House.”
Pade: “When defunding the police means reforming the police, I agree with that. I don’t believe in abolishing police departments or any of the more extreme proposals. We should demilitarize the police. We should reform police departments, focus on community policing, focus on funding for training for de-escalation. I support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and would have co-sponsored it if I was in Congress.”
Gazette: Rep. Steil has authored legislation to increase pressure on Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon. What should be the United States’ position on Iran?
Polack: “We already had an agreement in place (under the Obama administration). I helped implement that, sitting across the table from Iranian officials, and I think it was a huge mistake for the (President Donald) Trump administration to rip up the deal. This effort by Steil to appear strong on Iran, he has actually accomplished nothing on Iran.”
Pade: “We should try to get back to our working agreement with the other countries that were part of the Iran deal. I think it was a mistake for the Trump administration to pull out of the nuclear deal. It wasn’t perfect, but it moved us in the right direction. ...
”I applaud Congressman Steil for taking a strong stance against the companies that are evading sanctions. It’s a problem. I think it’s something that’s bipartisan-agreed that we need to stand together to make sure that doesn’t happen, but that alone isn’t going to help unless we have an effort with the rest of our allies to get Iran to abandon its nuclear program.”