This year’s midterm election in Illinois’ sixth congressional district is expected to be one of the most competitive of the 435 races this November. Democrat Sean Casten will challenge incumbent Peter Roskam, a Republican, for a seat in the House of Representatives, which political scientists predict could flip from Republican to Democratic control.
Hillary Clinton (D) won Illinois’ sixth congressional district in the 2016 presidential election, security 55.4 percent of the vote. Roskam won the district’s congressional race that year by 18 points. The latest poll from Garin Hart Yang Research group shows Casten at 49 percent and Roskam at 44 percent with a +/-4.9 margin of error. Polls in July and early September from Victory Research and Siena College predicted that Roskam would keep his seat.
Casten and Roskam’s campaign websites are castenforcongress. com and roskamforcongress. com, respectively. Each features an “issues” tab to educate voters on where each candidate stands on political matters. Roskam emphasizes five issues: national security and borders, health care, oversight and accountability and family, while Casten lists gun safety, energy and climate policy, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights and opportunity.
During their televised debate in July, Roskam and Casten expressed differing opinions about abortion, health care and guns. In May 2011, Roskam voted to ban federal health coverage that includes abortion. In the past, he has supported the rights of the unborn by means of the Fourteenth Amendment. On his website, Casten promises to support measures that will “defend and restore access to safe, legal abortions.”
Roskam is against the Affordable Care Act, while Casten has expressed his support for universal health care. Roskam fully supports the Second Amendment but endorses background checks. Casten claims on his website that as a congressman he will support measures like the Assault Weapons Ban that will restrict access to firearms. He states on his website, “I’m tired of hearing lawmakers offer their ‘thoughts and prayers’ after every new report of a tragic mass shooting. It’s time to offer Americans smart, effective gun laws that will save lives.”
However, Roskam fully supports the Second Amendment, although he endorses some gun control measures. According to the Northwest Herald, Roskam advocates for bans on bump stocks and universal background checks.
Roskam has voted against preventing job discrimination based on sexual orientation and enforcement against anti- gay hate crimes. His opponent disagrees. Casten says on his website, “LGBTQ+ rights are human rights, period.”
He plans on supporting measures like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Equality Act. A recent Washington Post poll found that 76 percent of registered voters are “absolutely certain to vote” in the midterm elections. The poll also found that 53 percent of registered voters were leaning towards voting for a Democratic Congressional candidate, while 42 percent were leaning Republican.
Both Roskam and Casten agree that young people are important factors in the 2018 midterm election. In an email to the Record, Veronica L. Vera, Communications Director for Roskam’s campaign said, “Young people have such an influential voice, especially today when there are so many platforms and issues they can unite on … The decisions the government makes today shape the future economy, job market and environment college graduates and future generations will be stepping into.”
Wheaton students planning to vote in Illinois’ sixth congressional district election spoke out in support of both candidates. Sophomore Sam Ruff “cannot possibly support Roskam’s run for office.” Ruff listed the incumbent’s support for both the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and President Donald Trump’s legislation among his reasons to support Casten. “His various social and political stances are ones that I simply cannot agree with,” he said.
Junior Tyler Long plans to vote for Peter Roskam in the midterm because “his policies are better financially and ethically.” Long pointed out that “Casten’s policies are to raise taxes [and] increase government involvement … [Roskam’s] policies produce better results in the long run.”
In a statement provided to the Record by the Casten campaign, the candidate encourages young people to vote because of the current Republican Congress. “Right now Republicans in Congress are jeopardizing health care coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions, and adding trillions to the deficit with a tax bill that gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent — I will be an independent voice and check on President Trump.”
Roskam led an investigation on the Ways and Means committee to find out why some colleges and universities’ tuition continued to rise while their tax-free endowments also grew. Vera claims that “this entrenched idea — that tuition has to go up and up and up every year — isn’t gospel truth.”
But Democrats like Casten don’t think Roskam has done enough for college students. Casten claims that “Peter Roskam has voted against the interests of college students by voting against allowing college students to refinance student loans, and opposing initiatives to expand Pell Grants.” Casten hopes to increase Pell Grants and refinance students as his means of supporting college students.
Democrats only need 23 more seats to flip the House. Considering the polls, this year’s congressional election in Illinois’ sixth district could go either way and contribute to which party controls the House for the next two years.