9/11: Loss, Mourning, Solidarity

September 11th. A time of loss and mourning for our country. 

It was also one of the last times our country came together in solidarity. 

Shared pain and suffering has a way of bringing people together. How could we do anything but coalesce as a nation and a world after such an attack?

What has led us so far astray after that show of togetherness? 

So soon do too many forget our shared humanity, our common values, and what binds us as a nation. It’s far too easy to see our differences in the form of culture, race, policy, and political party. When an agenda is placed before progress for others, the nation falls behind.


When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, it was tragic. We knew people had died. When that second plane hit, that was something entirely different. This was no accident. Our nation’s capitol and the heart of our defense was next.

What stands as an American triumph on that tragic September day is Flight 93 where passengers thwarted the hijacking. Since then, an American on his way to Paris helped to thwart another terrorist attack on a train in 2015. 


Our nation and her people have a history of standing up to violence and injustice. Sometimes, we do lose our way. We always find our way back to those strong American values because that’s what our country was founded upon: standing up for others, especially those who are in harm’s way. 

To this day, our nation is at risk from threats, both foreign and domestic. We face many other challenges today, as well, and yet, we face them divided. As we do so, we have less of a chance of being successful over the short and long term. 

The opportunities for collaboration and coordination are endless.

When America decides to come together around common purpose, we shoot for the moon and succeed, we end world wars, and we end global pandemics.

Our American values are those that bring out the best in one another. We must focus on solving problems, not creating more. We stand up for our brothers and sisters, as well as our neighbors. These are the American values that make us stronger.

When we stand alone and divided, we’re not in solidarity. We’re definitely not as we were 17 years ago today, one nation with a common purpose.

I remember.

I take that memory and focus on what I can do to make our country and my community better.

That is the least I can do.

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A Testament to Public Service

Senator John McCain will be missed.

As many of us have witnessed over the last few days since his passing, he has many loud critics on both sides of the aisle.

That’s what happens when you stand up to your own party and stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the political fallout.

His life was one of public service that is a testament to what it means to be an American. 

Throughout my life, I remember disagreeing with Sen. McCain many times. This did not strip away what we had in common, we put people over party.

We’re Americans striving to make a positive difference for others, our country, and to help pave the way for a better future for our children and our children’s children. 

None of us are perfect people, but all of us are capable of doing so much more for others than we usually put forth the effort to achieve.

That is the real lesson of the life of John McCain. He always wanted to be better, do better, and make this country a better place. That’s a path of public service we all should be encouraged by because we each can walk it as well.

My condolences go out to the McCain family and his many loved ones as they honor and remember him. He will be remembered.

Gaither Speaks Out on Ballot Referendum

I had the opportunity to speak out on the Coles County Board referendum on the Second Amendment. Thankfully, four of our elected officials decided to put county over party. That takes guts in a party that increasingly puts party over country. Seven that are or will be running for re-election decided to bow down.
 
My position on the Second Amendment has remained consistent.
I will never support legislation that bans firearms.
What we must do is hold people accountable.
 
This referendum was requested to be placed on the ballot by the Coles County Republican Party. They are the masters of most of our local county officials because those officials delivered tonight.
 
The Republicans need this ballot referendum because they have no positive agenda or results on which to run this November. 
  • Trillion dollar deficits for the next decade
  • Mounting national debt
  • Increasing out-of-pocket healthcare costs
  • Increasing prices
  • Decreasing wages
  • Crumbling infrastructure with no plan to fix it
  • Increasing conflict with allies and trade partners

The Illinois Constitution is clear. Any referendum by a county shall be adopted by the County Board.

Here is the language of this referendum.

”Should the Illinois General Assembly pass legislation protecting a citizen’s right to bear arms as defined by the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution?”

It is impossible to adopt this referendum because the question is about the General Assembly doing something, not the County Board.
Do we really want Cook County to make policy for Coles County?
I doubt that very much, but the current leadership of the Coles County Board is opening that door.
 

We need leaders, not lemmings.

Representation Not Abdication

Illinois is mentioned in the recent indictments of 12 Russian intelligence agents. Meanwhile, our Republican House delegation remains silent on Russian interference in our elections, even though Illinois’ voters were targeted.
Rep. Shimkus continues to abdicate his constitutional responsibilities to protect and defend our country from external and internal threats.
He, along with the rest of Congress, are also abdicating their constitutional responsibilities of regulating trade with foreign Nations. This is threatening our downstate and southern Illinois economy. 
We need a pro-active representative that listens and interacts with their constituents, that engages with both workers and business owners, and that tackles the big issues instead of leaving problems for the next generation.
I will be the representative that listens, interacts, engages, and tackles.
We can’t wait any longer.
In 21 years Rep. Shimkus has held ZERO Town Halls. In only two months I’ve held two while answering questions and engaging voters from every background across the 15th District.
It’s about time that downstate rediscovered what representation is supposed to be.
It’s about you and our communities, not about your party. It certainly should not be about filling up the campaign war chest so a representative doesn’t bother with answering tough questions from voters.
I will be the representative that will show up, stand up, and speak out for you.
Waiting two decades is way too long to wait for real representation.

Separating Families: Broken Immigration

Separating children from their parents is not just a tragedy, it’s traumatizing. That isn’t just a belief, it’s backed up by research of millions of children. Sometimes, it is absolutely necessary to remove a child from an abusive or violent parent in order to protect the child. That’s not what is happening here.

When I examine what’s happening on our southern border, I’m concerned about many issues.

The top priority should be protecting these children from harm, especially harm created by the decisions made by our government. That includes the trauma created by our decision to separate them from their parents. 

If Mary and Joseph came across our Southern Border, we would have torn Jesus from their arms. Does that sound like an American value?

I’m also concerned about our broken immigration systems, as many Americans are. This has been a problem for decades and something that both parties have failed to address.

Many people aren’t aware that the majority of illegal immigration is not from border crossings but from visa overstays. Our current system isn’t able to track those visa overstays.

Does it make sense to focus all of the attention on the border, especially when we’re traumatizing children in order for some politicians to get their way?

And, finally, we have serious economic and budgetary issues in our country. Throughout our history, an influx of immigrants have become part of the rich fabric of our great nation, enriching it with their work ethic, their families, and their culture. No other country on earth assimilates immigrants better. Why should we stop now?

Many factories and industries aren’t able to fill the positions they have available. We need new workers to fill these jobs.

We should be welcoming hard working people into our country because they will be paying taxes, paying into Social Security and Medicare which helps to keep these vital programs secure for the next generations, and contributing to our communities.

Do we need to let just anyone into our country? No. 

But, we need to fix our broken immigration system so that people can come here legally, so that those seeking asylum can do so safely, and that we can grow as a nation and provide for hardworking Americans that have spent a lifetime working hard for their own families and communities.

Doing nothing has led us to where a few politicians decided it was better to traumatize children than to solve our broken immigration system problem. 

I’d say there is plenty of common ground, common sense, and common values on this issue.

  • Who wants to harm children?
  • Who wants to continue doing the same thing, which is nothing, and expecting the problem to simply go away?
  • Who wants to ask future generations to answer for our mistakes?

I certainly don’t, and I don’t believe most people do either.

Let’s come together and solve our nation’s problems.

People Over Party.

“Are you for the party or the people? Both parties have wrecked IL. It’s “structure” is currently in a “state of disrepair” (has been for decades). With an estimated $8B deficit and growing, over 35k net loss of people—how will you standup to the Madigan’s and Edgar’s of IL? You won’t! They will not support your re-election…you’ll be ostracized.”

First, I agree that there are serious problems in Illinois caused by both sides of the aisle, especially when it comes to downstate.

Second, I’m running in a federal race to represent the 15th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, not the State Legislature.

There are great Democratic candidates running for State House and State Senate races throughout downstate. I would urge you to find yours and listen to what they have to say because they want to listen to what you have to say.

“IL can’t even climb out of the cellar in this historic economy?”

About “this historic economy.” It is historic, but not in the right way for the vast majority of people. And, that’s not just about Illinois. Wages have been stagnant for decades, in some industries wages have actually been decreasing. Many 70-80 year olds are working 6 or 7 days a week to help foot the bill for two or three generations. These working class people have been left behind by the economy, especially in rural America and rural Illinois.

“We sold our land in S.IL a few years ago—we were going to build our “dream” home; dumped the plans to retire in IL from the military—why bring our $ and entrepreneur ideas to a state with the top tax burden?”

If you want to examine the real drivers of our high tax environment in Illinois, look no further than our regressive flat income tax. This places all the burdens on working people and true small businesses. It also lands the burden of paying for education, infrastructure, and local government on property taxes. This is why the economic environment is so hostile to both workers and especially to business.

It will only get worse when the economy slows, and it will—tax receipts will decrease and state handouts will uptick.”

Calling assistance to families “handouts” is an easy way to not appreciate the real needs as well as the real economic benefits of this assistance. Under our current system, working while poor is punished. We should be incentivizing work instead. If you have any health condition within your family, these issues are compounded greatly.

The reality about monetary, healthcare, shelter, and food assistance is that all of these go directly into our local economies. When we cut these resources, we’re robbing our small businesses of much needed revenue. And, without eliminating the disincentives and punishments for getting back to work, the bridge to self-reliance is non-existent. We can work on this from both a state and a federal level.

“Why would an IL politician be concerned with people staying or leaving IL? Politicians do well in IL, get that state “gravy-train” (golden parachute) retirement plan to the tune of $72k off the backs of workers. For what? Nation leading deficits, taxes, state gov criminality, etc. When outflow outpaces inflow, maybe people will learn?”

When you examine downstate politics, the Republicans have one mantra. “Madigan.” That’s all they run on mostly, adding in one or two social issues that divide and separate as opposed to build and boost our local economies. I know that the People are exhausted by that boring, tired playbook.

Republicans have also ran nearly every county board, city council, state house, and state senate district for decades. What do the People have to show for it? Mass exodus.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but doing the same thing and expecting a different result . . . there’s a phrase about that, isn’t there?

  • I’m focused like a laser on changing the conversation.
  • Moving beyond this blame game.
  • Finding common ground, using common sense, and utilizing common values to move our district forward.
  • That is why I’m showing up, standing up, and speaking out everywhere I go. 

The People deserve to be heard, they deserve to be believed, and they deserve someone to stand up and fight for them everyday, both in D.C., in Springfield, and in their communities.

  • I’m open to solutions while sharing the innovative solutions I know have worked and that will work here.
  • We’re working together with anyone that is willing and open to do so.
  • Most people are too.

Voting Rights, SCOTUS and You

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled today that states can purge voters from voter rolls when they haven’t voted in awhile. Thankfully in Illinois, it’s fairly easy to vote.

However, if you don’t vote, you can now be kicked off the voter rolls.

In 2016, that would mean millions of voters who haven’t voted in decades would have been turned away at the polls, many of which who came out to vote for Donald Trump.

There’s are simple solutions to this:

  • Check your voter registration.
  • Start voting.
  • Become engaged in your local, state, and federal government.
  • It matters.

Other than that, the people are going to have to elect different representatives that fight to change the 1993 Voter Registration Act to protect your rights to ballot access.

Throughout my life working to register voters, get out the vote, and listen to the people, I’ve always fought to connect all voters, regardless of political affiliation, to the right to vote.

If we live in a country where someone who wants to vote cannot,

does democracy still exist in America?

I’ll fight to protect your rights, all of them.