Indivisible hosts debate in Morris

Democratic hopefuls discussed environment, law enforcement

The Democratic candidates for the Illinois 16th Congressional District gathered Saturday for a debate hosted by several Indivisible groups. From left: Beth Vercolio-Osmund, Amy "Murri" Briel, Neill Mohammad and Sara Dady. The nominee will face either James Marter of Oswego or incumbent Adam Kinzinger of Channahon.[]

MORRIS – Congressman Adam Kinzinger was the target for many of the attacks Saturday when four Democratic hopefuls met in Morris for a debate hosted by Indivisible. The candidates for the Democratic nomination each made their case for why they would be the best candidate to defeat the incumbent in November and represent the 16th Illinois Congressional district.

The candidates - Neill Mohammad of DeKalb, Sara Dady of Rockford, Beth Vercolio-Osmund of Ottawa and Amy "Murri" Briel of Joliet - answered questions on, the drug war, environmental policy and the role of Congress, along with other issues.

They disagreed on little, and Osmund noted that during the debate.

"The genius of this format today is that we all agree on a lot of these issues," she said. But while they seek similar outcomes to the issues issues, they expressed different paths and motives behind them.

When discussing health care, they all agreed on the need for universal health care or Medicare for all. Briel said she would like to see it happen, but even if the Democrats took control of Congress in November, there would still be a Republican president.

"I'm realistic. I'm pragmatic," she said. "The future of health care is to elect Democrats to Washington who will be able to stop the damage that is already being done."

Mohammad argued that the idea isn't a priority for the Democratic party, but that it needed to be one.

"Part of our tasks as progressives in this election is to make that the position of the Democratic party," he said. He also said that bipartisanship is a good goal, but the real litmus test should be if the idea is a good one.

The lack of a universal health care plan in the America made the country as a whole less competitive, Dady said, and it is a burden on employers.

Osmund said getting to universal health care would be a longer road, although she does support the idea.

"However, 10 years ago that wasn't even talked about. You were a crackpot if you thought that was even possible and now it's a very mainstream Democratic ideal. I know the (Affordable Care Act) isn't perfect, but it's incremental change," Osmund said.

When discussing environmental policy, Dady brought up that two of Illinois' three nuclear reactors were in the 16th district, but that not enough people are talking about the potential for nuclear energy.

"It would have an immediate and drastic impact on reducing our carbon emissions," she said. "Here in the 16th, we know that industry and it creates good paying union jobs."

"There is one pretty simple reason we don't talk about nuclear energy more often and that's because nobody wants to live next to a nuclear waste dump," Mohammad said, and that failing to solve that issue was why the country is losing ground on the adoption of green energy to other countries.

He also said that the country was backsliding on "nuts and bolts" environmental issues, like keeping soil and water clean.

Briel said the War on Drugs is a failure, and that the first thing that needs to be done is end the "Three Strikes" rule and the second is to legalize marijuana. She also wants to expunge the records of non-violent drug offenders and those in prison for those offenses should be released.

"When we do that, they become able to get jobs without having felony convictions on their record," she said. "They're able to vote and become active in the community."

Osmund, said she wanted to address the school to prison pipeline.

"One of the solutions that has been mentioned in keeping schools safer has been bringing more weapons into schools," she said. "That terrifies me ... I know that bringing a weapon into what is already a tense and difficult situation, whether that's in the classroom or in the hallway, is absolutely the wrong idea."

There was some confusion as to the location of the debate. Organizers had originally scheduled to have the debate at the Morris Public Library, but on Tuesday it was changed. to Profession Meters, Inc., south on Route 47 from the Illinois River. It did not stop ore than 40 people from showing up to watch the event.