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Q&A: Illinois House D-45 newcomers discuss hopes for state

Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 2:53 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:52 p.m. CDT

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In preparation for the March 18 Primary Election, Suburban Life Media contacted local candidates to gauge their views on various issues. Below are the responses received from Daniel Brinkman, Seth Lewis, T.J. Lewis and Christine Jennifer Winger, who are running in the Republican race for Illinois House District 45. Some answers have been edited for length.

Daniel Brinkman

Age:26

Town: Carol Stream

Employment: Verde Solutions

Why do you think you are suited for this office? What experiences do you have that lend well to serving in this position if elected?

Brinkman: Having worked for the Illinois House of Reps managing a legislative office for seven years, I have gotten to witness some of the waste and inefficiencies in state government first hand. Working in the private sector I find ways to save businesses money through energy efficiency.  

Why are you seeking office?

Brinkman: Eleven years ago Illinois was the premiere state in the Midwest and we were a destination economy. I want Illinois to be a state my children will want to stay in when they grow up and not be burdened with the bad decisions of the political class of another generation

What are the biggest differences between yourself and your opponents?  

Brinkman: I understand Springfield and could hit the ground running if elected. I have experience in state government, the private sector and in managing political campaigns. If we want to end one party rule in Illinois and bring ourselves out of the greatest minority in the General Assembly since the 1930s we’re going to have to learn to win elections.

What is the biggest challenge facing Springfield, and what would you do to address it?

Brinkman: The abysmal business climate. First elect a Republican governor and get Republicans out of the superminority. Next, roll back the business and income tax increases and let them expire. Scale back regulations choking business growth and enact tort reform allowing businesses to operate with a level of certainty and predictability.

Do you support the recent state pension reform bill, and why?

Brinkman: No. There was a better bill already introduced in the House. Rep Mike Fortner’s bill pays all unfunded liability by 2045 without abrogating any contractual agreements. Additionally, the law is going to get thrown out in the courts anyways. ... Passing the bill was a ploy to take the issue off the table by the Democrats and nothing more.

How would you improve the business climate in Illinois?

Brinkman: See previous answer on this topic.

Why should voters vote for you?

Brinkman: I want to work toward lowering the taxes we all pay whether its at the state level or here locally. I have already recruited candidates locally (successfully) to act as watchdogs over our property taxes. If elected this is something I would like to expand and continue. ... And I will vote against ANY tax increase. Finally, I will refuse a legislative pension.  

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Seth Lewis

Age: 45

Town:Bartlett

Employment:State Farm Insurance agent

Why do you think you are suited for this office? What experiences do you have that lend well to serving in this position if elected?

Seth Lewis: I have seen first-hand how the decline in the manufacturing sector in Illinois effected my family as well as that of my neighbors. I want to use my experience and energy to bring my story to Springfield to help revitalize our critical manufacturing sector and make Illinois business friendly once again.

Why are you seeking office?

Seth Lewis: I want to help bring a new brand of leadership to Springfield. I want to add strength to the voices who are calling to bring back fiscal responsibility, financial stability and professional integrity. There are many individuals that live in Illinois and District 45 who share my beliefs and my priorities.

What are the biggest differences between yourself and your opponents?

Seth Lewis: My sensibilities are not with the political class but with the average family in the 45th District trying to make a better life for their children. I will always do my job representing the district with those people in mind, not the political leaders or the news media.

What is the biggest challenge facing Springfield, and what would you do to address it?

Seth Lewis: In recent years, Springfield has essentially been run by a small amount people with many of the legislators rendered powerless. Our state has not been managed effectively the last decade and an unhealthy power concentration at the top is partly to blame.

Do you support the recent state pension reform bill, and why?

Seth Lewis: The recently passed state legislation will help address it in the short-term and I would have supported it. However, it is far from the total solution. ... In other words, controlling spending is the first step to solving our long-term pension and financial problems in Illinois.

How would you improve the business climate in Illinois?

Seth Lewis: I want to ensure that Illinois’ temporary income tax hike is not permanent. Illinois is underperforming surrounding states regarding job growth. ... Taxes of all kind are too high and costs to businesses such as worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance are uncompetitive.

Why should voters vote for you?

Seth Lewis: I want to help bring a new brand of leadership to Springfield. ... I believe that by working together we can do an even better job of representing the values of the communities we serve.

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T.J. Lewis

Age:39

Town: Bartlett

Employment: Firefighter paramedic; real estate finance title and trust

Why do you think you are suited for this office? What experiences do you have that lend well to serving in this position if elected?

T.J. Lewis: I held a position as a district director for the House of Representatives, I’m proud to say I came in under budget each fiscal year, always sending a surplus back to Springfield. Also I was able to make a real impact on the lives of the public by mitigating real life issues that they had with the state bureaucracy.

Why are you seeking office?

T.J. Lewis: I am running because of the Fiscal Crisis in Springfield. We need to change our path before the state of Illinois becomes insolvent. I’ve seen first- hand ... what it is like to have centralized governments fail. ... I don’t believe we are actually to that point here in Illinois but we need to become more fiscally conservative by cutting wasteful spending and pay down our debts.

What are the biggest differences between yourself and your opponents?  

T.J. Lewis: I was able to create almost a 100 jobs with-in the private sector in the last three years. My experience working in the Finance and working for the House of Representative gives me a perspective that will benefit people throughout the workforce both private and public sectors.

What is the biggest challenge facing Springfield, and what would you do to address it?

T.J. Lewis: The biggest challenge facing Springfield is getting a handle on the fiscal crisis. The state of Illinois does not have a revenue problem it has a spending problem.

Do you support the recent state pension reform bill, and why?

T.J. Lewis: I would not of supported SB1 but I do believe in pension reform. ... We need to restructure our state wide retirement benefits systems for future employees. … We need to allow the state, the counties, local governments and the employees, the ability to determine how to budget retirement benefits.

How would you improve the business climate in Illinois?

T.J. Lewis: First, we need to let the temporary income tax of 2011 sun set. … We need to identify untapped markets in Illinois and peruse industries to set up shop here. ... We need to create an environment that retains a strong corporate base which in turn will create more employment opportunities and stronger markets. …

Why should voters vote for you?

T.J. Lewis: Two reasons; my work experience and my knowledge of the issues. ... I am the best person for the job when it comes to constituent issues, true experience of cutting through the bureaucracy of the state and mitigating the real life problems that our district residents have had. Also I have a proven record with being Fiscal responsible with government budgets.

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Christine Jennifer Winger

Age:42

Town:Wood Dale

Employment:Investment adviser representative, Upstream Investment Partners

Why do you think you are suited for this office?

Winger: I have a proven track record as an elected official serving our community. I know the great responsibility involved with representing constituents, and in looking out for both them and the community as a whole.

What experiences do you have that lend well to serving in this position if elected?

Winger: My residents have confirmed my record, having re-elected me twice and I now serve as the most senior councilman and as deputy mayor (in Wood Dale). I am extremely proud to say that during my entire time in office in the city we have kept a budget in the black.

Why are you seeking office?

Winger: Many corporations have been leaving Illinois, and with it vital jobs to the state’s economy. I have been a life-long resident of Illinois, including having gone to college in Illinois. ... I want to be a part of the solution in addressing the financial crisis that the state of Illinois is in.

What are the biggest differences between yourself and your opponents?

Winger: I am the only candidate: that has over a decade of management experience working for a top Fortune 100 company, that has spent time teaching within the Illinois schools..., that has elected government experience representing people within the district.

What is the biggest challenge facing Springfield, and what would you do to address it?

Winger: The biggest challenge facing Springfield is the financial status of Illinois. ... To attract and keep businesses in the state we need structured tax incentive programs, we need to focus on workers compensation reform, we need to cut red tape with business permitting that can take as long as two years.

Do you support the recent state pension reform bill, and why?

Winger: I would not have voted for the pension reform bill. It is unconstitutional and most likely to be thrown out, but most importantly it goes back on a commitment made by the state to pay out pensions that individuals have based their retirements on.

How would you improve the business climate in Illinois?

Winger: To keep businesses in the state we need structured tax incentive programs, we need to focus on workers compensation reform, we need to cut red tape with business permitting that can take as long as two years. Tax incentive programs need to be structured by the state rather than arbitrarily applied. I support rolling back the income tax hike.

Why should voters vote for you?

Winger: I have experience serving as finance and administration chairperson for the Wood Dale City Council, as a financial adviser in this current economy and professional experience working as a project manager for a Fortune 100 company. I believe I can take these experiences to the state level to ... make the tough and fair decisions involved with cutting spending yet maintaining critical services for the state.

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