Q&A: Dan Seals, Democratic Candidate for 10th Congressional District
Businessman is running against Robert Dold to represent the suburban lakefront district in the U.S. House.
Patch talked to Dan Seals, who is running against Robert Dold to represent the 10th Congressional District Nov. 2. The seat is currently held by Rep. Mark Kirk who is the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate.
Patch: The country seems to be divided between those who believe President Obama's policies will pull us out of the recession, and in fact may have prevented the economy from getting worse, and those who believe we are raising taxes to an unsustainable level which will stymie business growth and saddle future generations with a heavy tax burden. Where do you fall along this spectrum?
Dan Seals: I guess I'm a third location. I think that the president's policies have moved us forward, but I think we can do a lot better. Job No. 1 is getting people back to work and the key there is supporting small businesses.
Patch: What can Congress do to get the economy back on track?
Seals: The first thing is getting capital into small business. The Small Business Lending Act made it though the Senate and that was a positive step. Small businesses create 65 percent of new jobs and that's been true the past 15 years. This is not the time to raise taxes and in some cases, we should actually lower them. And, in the long term, we need to lay out a plan to reduce the national debt. If it continues on the rate we're on, it will choke off prosperity.
Patch: As of August, the national unemployment rate is 9.5 percent and in Illinois, it's 10.6 percent (figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). What policies will you support to improve that situation for people in Illinois and the 10th District?
Seals: It's a very similar picture in the short run. In our area, we have a large number of small businesses. Those are the folks coming to me complaining about the difficulties getting financing.
Patch: September saw a record number of home foreclosures. What can Congress do to prevent more foreclosures and assist people who are losing their homes?
Seals: This hasn't come up so much and I think it should. We were talking so much about it a year ago. The reason for foreclosure now is somewhat different from what we saw a year ago. Last year we saw people go upside down when … the values of their homes go below their mortgage. As people continue to be out of work, they can no longer afford their mortgages. That's an additional trend. What can you do about it? We want to make sure that people who are facing foreclosure are actually supposed to be facing foreclosure. I'd like to have more scrutiny that this is supposed to happen. At the end of the day, if the reason you can't afford your home is because you're out of work, then I'd like to make it easier for folks in that situation to get out of their homes. It devastates credit history [so] one, not to have it count against credit history. Two, let them deduct the loss from their taxes so they aren't devastated financially. That way, if they have to leave their home, the damage they've done is minimal and they have more of a chance of getting back on their feet.
Patch: What, if anything, would you change about the health care package Congress passed earlier this year?
Seals: There are a couple … improvements we should make. One, it didn't do anything to fix the problem of Medicare reimbursement for doctors. Doctors are facing a 21 percent drop in Medicare reimbursement, and it was completely ignored. Two, it included a tax on small businesses. Every time a new business forms a new relationship with a contractor, they have to pay a tax. That's a tax on growth and that shouldn't happen. Three, … it's supposed to cut costs. I want to make sure that actually happens. There should be strong oversight on costs. Four, we really need to increase transparency. You go to a doctor today, [and] not a patient or the doctor is aware of the costs [of procedures] and that's a bad thing. Patients and doctors should know the costs.
Patch: What is your view of U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do you agree with the present courses of action or should we be changing direction?
Seals: I agree with direction in Iraq, and I disagree with the direction in Afghanistan. I support the drawdown of troops in Iraq and I'm happy to see us continue along that path. With regards to the surge in Afghanistan, I have every confidence that our troops will defeat the Taliban. That's not where my concerns are. I'm concerned about the Karzai administration. I think it's both inept and corrupt. My concern is that they will not be able to maintain what our soldiers are able to achieve. I'm worried about any strategy that is based on [Karzai's] government. I will hold this president accountable for the timeline he set forth for the drawdown of soldiers.
Patch: What other foreign policy concerns do you see as key for our country and how would you address them?
Seals: I think the biggest threat we face is terrorists and terrorist regimes getting hold of nuclear weapons. We see that in more than one location. We see that in Pakistan and North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons, and it's a concern with Iran. Each requires a different approach. For Iran we have sanctions from the U.N. and sanctions from us and the next step is to pull China and Russia away from Iran. I'd like to use what chips we have to try to move Russia and China away [from Iran]. I can't take the military option off the table, but we can't allow Iran, which has been belligerent, … to have nuclear weapons. You've gotta keep the military option on the table.
Patch: What in your background has prepared you to be successful as a representative of the 10th District?
Seals: One, my background in business. I've been a director at GE, one of the most respected companies on the planet, and that's given me a results-orientation which is something I think we need more of. In D.C., you see a lot of good intentions but not good results. Two, I have a background in policy and so that gives me an excellent background on how things work and what's possible with the government we have in Washington. Three, I have taken the time to get to know this district. No one has put in more time to get to know the issues and policies that matter to the people here. I think all of those things make me well prepared to have an impact at this level.
Patch: Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent, Robert Dold?
Sears: People should vote for me if they'd like to see strong leadership on the economy without compromising their values on issues like (a woman's) choice and the environment. What I'm finding, as folks come to me who are supporting me, is [them] not wanting to make that compromise. My opponent is recommended by Illinois Right to Life. We have the backing of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. My opponent wants to weaken environmental legislation and I think we need stronger. My opponent tends to support the policies of the Bush administration on the economy and I think we simply can't go back. We need to move forward.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.