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On Nov3, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (1st Congressional District) will defend his seat against Roger Polack, of Racine. We asked the same questions of both candidates. Looking to learn more about Steil? Click here.
Here are Polack’s answers
Where do you live?
How long have you lived in the community?
Grew up in Racine.
What is your educational background?
Racine Horlick High School; University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bachelor of Arts (Political Science, International Studies, Asian Studies); Georgetown University Law School, Juris Doctor (magna cum laude)
What civic organizations do you belong to?
Did not answer
What position are you running for?
1st Congressional District
Have you ever held elected office before?
If so, what positions were you elected to?
In thinking about your election bid, what top three issues need to be addressed? *
- In thinking about your election bid, what top three issues need to be addressed?
- Our country is in the middle of a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 1,410 Wisconsinites and more than 210,000 Americans. Millions of working-class families are struggling with unemployment and an unstable economy. Where is the leadership? We’re told that in moments of crisis, leaders rise, but where do we see that. President Trump and his enablers in Congress, like my opponent Bryan Steil, have been too busy pointing the finger than to seize their positions of leadership to steer us through this crisis.
- Access to quality, affordable health care is a human right and we must ensure that in our country, we have universal health care coverage.
- We need to bring back more family-supporting jobs into this district. If given the opportunity, Southeastern Wisconsinites can compete with anyone, anywhere, and we have a strong track record of doing just that. Through the late 60s into the 1980s, my dad worked at J.I. Case here in Racine, on the line, building tractors. Case used to employ 4,000 people in the district; it’s down to 10 percent of that number today, roughly 400. That has been repeated throughout the district, with manufacturers here substantially reducing the size of their workforce, or leaving altogether, like GM in Janesville. So we need to set up Southeast Wisconsinites for success, unlike Bryan Steil has done in his first term and his predecessor before him.
How would you plan to address those issues?
- For coronavirus, we need leaders who take the virus seriously, which I do. We need leaders who will prioritize the needs of individuals struggling to make ends meet during this crisis, which I will. I would vote to pass the HEROES Act and get another round of relief to those most affected, including small businesses. I WOULD NOT call stimulus to unemployed individuals “unfair” as Bryan Steil has done. I would not vote against bills like the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, like Bryan Steil has done.
- For health care, we should be building upon the Affordable Care Act, not replacing it. That means eliminating surprise billing, driving down the costs of prescription drugs, and always protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. If the ACA were to be repealed, 224,000 Wisconsinites would lose their health care. To strip thousands of people of their health insurance during a pandemic is cruel and unacceptable. We have heard for years that Bryan Steil and his Republican cronies have a replacement, but haven’t seen it. Democrats came up with the ACA and now we’re supposed to come up with a plan to replace it.
- On jobs, while there is no question our economy is changing, I believe Southeastern Wisconsin workers can still compete with anyone if given an opportunity. We must invest more in jobs and skills training – for both students in high school and community colleges and those out-of-school looking to learn a new trade. Recently, my own mom went back to Gateway Technical College to learn a new profession when technology made her job obsolete and she was laid off. Today, my mom loves her new job and the sense of security it brings her. These new skills and training opportunities should be available to all Americans.
In reference to those issues you have identified, what would success look like to you?
I believe success means getting financial support in hands of those who need it most to combat this virus, making sure that people have access to quality affordable health care coverage and a public option for all those who need it, the government actively negotiates to lower prescription drug prices, and that we have an infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Why are those issues important to you?
Those issues are important to me because they directly affect working-class families like the one I grew up in. We need special interests out of politics so that people have real representation. We need a stronger health care system so that families aren’t one illness away from bankruptcy. And we need to bring back family-supporting jobs to this district. It’s about time we had a representative that knew what it was like to struggle in Southeastern Wisconsin.
At the end of your term, what would you like to have accomplished?
I want to work to improve the federal response to the Coronavirus pandemic. President Trump, Congressman Steil and his Republican enablers didn’t move fast to contain the virus through testing, contact tracing, and equipping our health system to handle this pandemic.
Instead, they brushed it off for months, calling it a hoax while the economy ground to a halt. We have seen a decade of job gains wiped out in 2 months, and unemployment spiked to 14.7% in May. Republicans have spent the last several years trying to take healthcare access away from families, retirement benefits, they have fought to create a system where we now have the weakest safety net of all advanced economies. We are in the largest economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes and we need real representation in this District to help get us back on track
Why should people vote for you?
I have the experiences necessary to represent this district. Bryan Steil and I are different people; how we grew up and who we prioritize helping. I grew up in a low-income family in Racine and I know what it’s like to struggle in this district.
I remember distinctly waiting in line with my mom for government cheese and powdered milk. I grew up in a racially-diverse neighborhood where we were united by our shared experience of struggling to make ends meet. But I persevered. I know what it’s like to be thankful for Pell Grants, and I know what it’s like to rely on federal loans to get through school, which I continue to pay to this day. Service to our country has been a huge part of my life. I served multiple tours as a civilian intelligence officer in Afghanistan, spending 20 months on the ground first as an analyst for, and then Deputy Director of, the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell.
In Afghanistan, I sat face to face with Taliban detainees, helped plan law enforcement and military operations, and managed the intelligence priorities of 40 civilian and military staff. When I returned to the United States, I went to one of the top law schools in the country at night while working on some of President Obama’s most pressing national security issues. I negotiated with Chinese officials in Beijing and in Washington to get them to back off their discriminatory laws that hampered US businesses; and I negotiated with Iranian officials in Europe and in New York to finalize the details of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. My priorities lie with the people of Southeastern Wisconsin over large corporations. I am imminently and best qualified to represent this district.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know?
- I believe now more than ever, every American needs to step up and serve however they can. For me, that means personally working to kick the special interests out of our congressional seat – and defeat a politician funded by special interests who prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy, has no plan on healthcare, supports funding cuts to public education, does not take this virus seriously, and constantly makes it harder for middle-class Americans to get ahead. In office, Steil has taken over $500,000 dollars from corporations, including $200,000 from banks and insurance companies that he has direct oversight over.
- The majority of my professional career has been devoted to public service, serving as a civilian intelligence official confronting some of the hardest problems the United States has faced—from bankrupting international terrorist organizations after 9/11, to countering corruption and insurgency in Afghanistan, to holding China’s feet to the fire on investment and national security issues, and curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I worked with federal law enforcement officials on investigations to keep our country safe.