Where six Democrats for Congress stand on guns and economy

·17 min read

Six candidates are campaigning to succeed U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos in the 17th Congressional District and keep the seat in Democratic party hands.

Voters in a June 28 primary election will decide which of them should go on to represent the party in the November general election.

We sent a few questions to each of the candidates in an effort to learn more about them and where they stand on key issues.

More: Open seat in Congress brings Illinois Dems 'out of the woodwork': Who all is running?

The 17th Congressional District stretches from much of northwestern Illinois and Rockford to Peoria and includes Bloomington-Normal, Macomb and the Quad Cities.

Here are their responses.

Rockford Ald. Jonathan Logemann, D-2, is running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.
Rockford Ald. Jonathan Logemann, D-2, is running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.

Jonathan Logemann

Age: 35

City of Residence: Rockford

Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009), B.S.E. in Social Studies Education; Northwestern University (2013), Master’s of Public Policy & Administration; University of Illinois at Chicago (2015), M.B.A.

Work experience: Illinois Army National Guard (2012-present); Teacher, Chicago Public Schools, (2009-2014); Teacher, Rockford Public Schools (2014-present)

Political experience: Alderman, Rockford City Council (2017-present)

Organizations and memberships: Rockford Education Association, Grassroots Political Activist, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Military Officers Association of America

Family: Wife — Sarah Clery Logemann Children — Eleanor, 5, Maya, 3, Octavia, 3 months

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide?  

I have been proud to serve my city as Rockford’s 2nd Ward Alderman since 2017, and anyone who knows me understands I work to solve problems for my community, and I don’t look to score cheap political points. We need more of that results-first approach in all levels of government. I have worked with so many different types of people in my career: teaching thousands of different students in 12 years as a public high school teacher, working closely with hundreds of different soldiers in 10 years in the armed forces, and serving every resident of Rockford, no matter if they live in my ward or not. Just like I’ve done on Rockford City Council, I look forward to working, in partnership, with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to achieve bold solutions to challenges facing hard-working families across our District, our state and our country.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done?

Gun violence has personally impacted my family, and in my teaching career, I have even endured an active shooter event on school grounds. I also know the vast majority of firearm owners across Illinois and America are responsible, upstanding citizens who do not deserve to have their Constitutional rights taken away. In Congress, I would relentlessly champion common-sense gun safety policies, like implementing universal background checks, mandatory waiting periods, closing the boyfriend loophole, and cracking down on the sale of ghost guns and bump stocks. I would also vote to ensure anyone on the no-fly list is similarly unable to purchase a gun. As a teacher, I will always ensure guns have no place in our schools. As an infantryman in Afghanistan, we didn’t need bump stocks or extended magazines, and we certainly don’t need them on our streets here in the United States.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation?  

Fighting inflation must be the top priority of Congress so Illinois families can get by. We need to lower the cost of gas by expanding production in the short term, while investing in clean energy over the long term to reduce our dependence on the global oil market. We must fix our supply chain problems, and I would work to bring home the manufacturing and corporations that have been allowed to take operations overseas so we’re building here in Illinois again rather than importing goods halfway across the globe. I am proud of my record as a Rockford’s 2nd Ward Alderman to help create jobs and raise wages. Skills training and apprenticeship programs are essential parts of our local economy here as they present our young people with excellent opportunities for employment. We can work to expand programs like the Rockford Promise to ensure everyone has access to further skills and career development.

Jacqueline McGowan, 47, of Palos Hills, is running for Congress in the 17th District.
Jacqueline McGowan, 47, of Palos Hills, is running for Congress in the 17th District.

Jacqueline "Jackie" McGowan

Age: 47

City of Residence: Palos Hills (relocating to Rockford)

Education: Ygnacio Valley High School 1993; Finra Registered Securities Broker 2002-2011, Series 7 and Series 63 Licenses

Work experience: Institutional Equity Derivatives Broker- Lehman Brothers, Israel Englander, Cantor Fitzgerald, GFI 1993-2011

Political experience: Eight years lobbying for the legal cannabis industry; California Gubernatorial Recall Race 2021.

Organizations and memberships: NORML (National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws), NCIA (National Cannabis Industry Association)

Family: Father (deceased), mother, brother and 250 cousins

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide? 

The answer is simple. We are all going to smoke weed together. I kid of course. Once elected I will work to find middle ground and focus on what we can agree on, instead of what we can not. The reality is that we all work and live together and coexist in our neighborhoods and we can do the same in Washington.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done to control guns?  

Doing more to stop the flow of illegal ghost guns is critical to stemming our current problems. As for suicides, we need to admit that we are facing a mental health crisis and address the fact that a global pandemic has exacerbated this.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation? 

I would support an immediate fight to end the tariffs on China. These tariffs were opposed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and have disproportionately affected District 17 negatively. Tariffs inevitably become a tax on our farmers. I would continue on to honor the esteemed Congresswoman Bustos’ work on “The Next Generation Fuel Act” to increase ethanol production which will both help farmers in the district as well as the consumer at the gas pump.

Rock Island County Board member and Auststana College professor Angie Normoyle is a Democrat running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.
Rock Island County Board member and Auststana College professor Angie Normoyle is a Democrat running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.

Angie Normoyle

Age: 55

City of Residence: Moline

Education: Augustana, B.A. in Speech Communication & Business Administration; Northwestern, Masters & PhD in Communications

Work experience: Augustana College, professor of communication studies, Rock Island, 2002-2021; Homeschool tutor, Milan & Bettendorf, IA, 2008-2017; Northwestern University, program coordinator and group facilitator for the undergraduate leadership program, Graduate assistant for the wellness project, Evanston, 1993-1997; Enesco Corporation, national account executive, assistant sales manager, sales manager and senior sales manager, Itasca, 1989-1993; American College of Healthcare Executives, advertising sales and direct marketing, Chicago, 1988-1989.

Political experience: Moline School Board, 2007-2011; Rock Island County Board, 2019-Present; Precinct committeeperson, 2018-Present; Rock Island County Democrats Treasurer, 2020-Present.

Organizations and memberships: Farm Bureau Interfaith Alliance IWILTA (Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Training Academy); League of Women Voters; NAACP; Rock Island County Democrats; Precinct Committeeperson; Sierra Club; St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport.

Family: Husband, Don Normoyle, Anesthesiologist with Western Illinois Anesthesiology; Son, Ian, 25, and twins, Sam & Kate, 23.

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide?

My friends and family across the district, both Democrats and Republicans, shaped who I am, and taught me to fight for what’s right and use my voice to help others. This commitment has never been dictated by partisanship, and I aim to be a representative for all in the 17th, not just Democrats. The local approach I led with on the school board and now on the Rock Island County Board was grounded in service, not partisanship.

I held open meetings, collaborated with all my colleagues and responded to the community’s needs. My loyalty has always been with people, not a political party. The first step is developing relationships and clarifying our common goals. I pledge to leverage my nonpartisan background towards finding bipartisan solutions to some of our country’s most pressing problems, from an uncertain economy to our crumbling infrastructure.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done to control guns?

I support a path to legally owning a gun; one that addresses loopholes and ensures firearms are not getting in the hands of our children, of those with a dangerous criminal history, or those with serious mental health illnesses. We need to remove the “boyfriend” loophole, and exercise the Extreme Risk Protection Order to keep our communities safe. Further, we need to leverage modern technology to increase the efficacy and scope of background checks - they should be able to be obtained quickly and reliably. Finally, we need to increase the culture surrounding responsible gun ownership. Guns need to be safely stored in homes, out of the reach of children.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation?

Growing our economy by supporting small businesses, protecting workers, and restoring our country’s fiscal health has never been more important. Small businesses need access to both human and physical capital. Incubator spaces that are partnered with our colleges and universities can foster the skills necessary for successful entrepreneurship, and investment in infrastructure and broadband can support the physical infrastructure needed to modernize businesses. Further, we need to support our labor partners, who fight for safe working conditions, higher wages, paid sick leave, and affordable and reliable childcare to support those seeking jobs. We need to support trade deals that bring good-paying union jobs, from green-energy projects to manufacturing, back to American workers. When we make these investments, we rely less on foreign products and services, allowing us increased control of our local economies.

Rockford native and former WREX-13 meteorologist Eric Sorensen is a Democrat running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.
Rockford native and former WREX-13 meteorologist Eric Sorensen is a Democrat running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.

Eric Sorensen

Age: 46

City of Residence: Moline

Education: Bachelor of Science from Northern Illinois University (1999)

Work experience: KLTV/KTRE ABC 7/ABC 9, Meteorologist, 1999-2003; WREX, NBC 13, Chief Meteorologist, 2003-2014; WQAD, ABC 8, Senior Meteorologist, 2014-2021.

Political experience: Board member of Clock, Inc. and The Project of the Quad Cities, non-profit initiatives that aim to connect vulnerable individuals to health services.

Organizations and memberships: Fellow, Society of Environmental Journalists

Family: I was born and raised in Rockford and have a brother and sister. My partner was raised in Rockton.

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide?

When I speak with voters across our district, it’s clear that they aren’t looking for someone ideological. They want a Representative who they trust, who will listen to their needs, and then advocate on their behalf in Washington. For two decades I worked to earn the trust of people across our district by telling the truth every day and by being a reliable source for weather, climate, and science information. In addition, I’ve spent my entire career communicating to our entire community, not just to a liberal or conservative audience. I understand that to represent a politically diverse community it’s not about running to one’s partisan corner, it’s about advocating for the solutions to the issues that impact everyone. As our community’s Representative, I will be a science-guided voice – driven by facts and science rather than any political ideology.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done to control guns?

I support the 2nd Amendment, and believe in protecting the rights of responsible gun owners. I also believe that we need to protect our families and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent criminals, domestic abusers, and those that seek to cause harm. That’s just common sense and from speaking with voters across our district, it’s what I hear. I believe it’s important that we protect our communities by banning ghost guns and assault weapons. It’s also personal for me: On Valentine’s Day 2008, I co-anchored breaking news coverage of the Northern Illinois University mass shooting on WREX. As an alum, I was able to provide live context to the aerial coverage our viewers were seeing. The TV station was also a meeting point for families and students in the aftermath. I will never forget seeing the emotion, but am cognizant of the families that were never able to reunite. I am proud to have received the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate Distinction.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation?

The elephant in the room these days is inflation. And we must recognize that it’s an incredibly personal issue, as it impacts every member of our community. Inflation isn’t a political volleyball to be lobbed back and forth between candidates. This is an issue that’s hurting our families and we all need to work together to bring relief. But there is no silver bullet to address today’s inflation. I believe we need to look at tangible steps we can take that ease the burden of it. First and foremost, I believe we need to address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. It is beyond time to allow Medicare to directly negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to drive prices down for everyone. I was speaking with a voter in Rockford who shared that the cost of his prescription drugs has risen so much that they now cost more than his rent. That is unacceptable and it’s time for action today.

Litesa Wallace
Litesa Wallace

Litesa Wallace

Age: 43

City of Residence: Rockford

Education: Hillcrest High School (1995); Western Illinois B.A, (1999); Northern Illinois University, M.S (2003); Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (2013).

Work experience: State representative 2014-2019.

Political experience: Democrat, active volunteer on numerous campaigns since 2000. Former assistant recording secretary, Winnebago County Democrats.

Organizations and memberships: Delta SIgma Theta Sorority; Inc Hope Fellowship Church; Juvenile Justice Initiative; Board member Men4Choice; Board member Illinois Womens’ Institute for Leadership 2014.

Family: Mother worked for the US Postal Service and father is retired law enforcement officer. Mom of a teenaged son.

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide? 

Before healing, we need justice. I will not compromise my Democratic values when it comes to reproductive justice, the rights of workers to bargain collectively, human rights for marginalized communities and immigrants, and addressing environmental injustice. I've shown I can work in collaboration and in a bipartisan manner without compromising these values, having passed dozens of bipartisan pieces legislation in the Illinois House. This ability and track record has led to our campaign being endorsed by groups like SEIU Illinois, Indivisible Freeport and Indivisible Peoria, Winnebago County Citizens Choice and national groups such as Democracy for America, Collective PAC and Higher Heights.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done to control guns? 

Gun violence has slaughtered our people and our streets are drenched in blood, thanks to a small but loud lobby that puts guns before a human person. I lost my dear college friend to gun violence in 2001 and I was in a building just next door to Cole Hall when the mass shooting occurred on NIUs campus Valentine's Day 2008. I will do everything I can to get illegal guns off the streets, ban assault weapons, require gun dealer licensure and other common sense gun control measures, including supporting Ethan's Law. I worked to address many of these issues in the statehouse and I will do so in Congress. I'm also proud to have the endorsement of Rep. Kathy Willis, a leader in the Illinois House of Representatives on gun control measures and I am proud to be an Everytown/Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation?

The immediate needs of working families must be met. This means limiting their costs. To this end, we must invest fully in child care, elder care, food economies and healthcare for all. It is absolutely immoral that hard-working middle-class people in the 17th District are dutifully paying their taxes while the billionaire class enjoy all the benefits of Trump’s so-called “tax reform.” The vast majority of the Trump tax cuts went to wealthy people who didn’t need help, while low- and middle-income households got left behind. I support real tax reform that will reward hard work — not unearned wealth — and that will put more money in the pockets of working people who are struggling to get by.

Continued investment in the Green Economic Revolution through job training and equitable investment in women and BIPOC owned businesses will help increase domestic energy production and grow the economy; I'm honored to be endorsed by the Illinois House sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Finally, we must also reign in the markets that profit from the sweat of the brow of workers who are driven underfoot.

Marsha Williams of Channahon says she plans to run for Congress in the 17th District.
Marsha Williams of Channahon says she plans to run for Congress in the 17th District.

Marsha Williams

Age:  41

City of Residence: Channahon and Peoria

Education: Minooka Community High School 1999, Purdue University 2013.

Work experience: Admissions advisor, 160 Driving Academy

Political experience: None

Organizations and memberships: Minooka Alumni Association, Bold Urban Renaissance Network, and Chiditarod Foundation.

Family: Mother of 3, 2 living children, one significant other.

Toxic political polarization has permeated the nation's landscape. How will you work to heal the divide?

When partisanship becomes equated with patriotism, destroying the other side becomes the ultimate goal, this is how democracies fall crumble. After the wake of January 6th, it is crucial that someone can rise and unite the country again as one. We, as fellow Americans must begin to chart national reconciliation and reunification—and we must do so now. We must have someone that will sit down and listen to the pain and the struggles of the other side. Then identify pathways for shared understanding and national reconciliation with those who are willing.

In 2020, a record 45,222 people died from gun injuries in the U.S. including suicide and murder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. What, if anything, should be done to control guns?

We first need to have universal background checks for both public and private dealers. After one is convicted of domestic violence or any violence, an individual should be prevented from owning a firearm. We also should require mandatory gun safety training where one is taught the laws, how to use their firearm and how to maintain the firearm.

What policies would you support in Congress to grow the economy and fight inflation?

We are facing the steepest and fastest price hikes across the country in 40 years. Currently, 90% of inflation reflects excess demand driven by fiscal and monetary policy. Large corporations are taking advantage of the pandemic to raise prices unfairly. First, we need to raise the federal minimum wage to reflect the ongoing changes in our economy. The last time the Federal minimum wage was raised was in 2009 and since then inflation went up by 36%. Lastly, we need to utilize unions to hold corporations accountable and assist in combating inflation.

Jeff Kolkey: (815) 987-1374; jkolkey@rrstar.com; @jeffkolkey

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Meet the six Democrats running for Congress in the 17th District