News Local/State

Congressional Candidate Kevin Gaither Pledges Change For 15th District

Democratic congressional candidate Kevin Gaither.

Kevin Gaither (D-Charleston) is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Illinois' 15th District. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Kevin Gaither says people in Illinois’ 15th Congressional District are desperate for change. And Gaither, who works as a tutor in Charleston, says he wants to help them achieve it. Gaither is one of two Democrats (the other is Carl Sporer of Mahomet) running in the March primary, with the goal of unseating Republican Congressman John Shimkus in November.

The 41-year-old Gaither is a native of Sullivan, Illinois, who spent several years in Indiana, where he earned a chemistry degree at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, did work as an AIDS/HIV educator and served on Indiana’s statewide HIV Consumer Advisory Board.

In an interview for Illinois Public Media, Gaither said neither Democrats or Republicans have done much for the people of the 15th district.

“One party likes to divide us. The other party really hasn’t fought for us down here,” said Gaither, who said he would be a Democrat would fight for people in the district, if elected.

“We need better jobs, we need better pay, we need better healthcare, especially access to healthcare,” said the candidate.

Gaither says his experience as a tutor has also showed him the need for better education, especially early childhood education.

Gaither is not a fan of the tax reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in December. While he welcomes tax breaks for workers and small businesses, he says the new law does not make them permanent. Meanwhile, he calls the permanent tax cuts for larger corporations “a huge mistake.”

“It blows a huge hole in deficits and debts for the long term,” said Gaither. “There’s no guarantees for workers, no guarantees for keeping American jobs here. It’s like a hope and dream that someone, all of these companies across the entire country are going to do the right thing. We need better stewards of the economy and our money than the Republican Party, which seems to have lost its mind.”

Gaither says he also supports making improvements to the Affordable Care Act, instead of trying to eliminate it. He supports changes that will curb rising healthcare costs.

“It didn’t do anything to stop the cost of healthcare,” said Gaither of the Affordable Care Act. “What we needed to do was allow ourselves to negotiate for prices on prescription drugs, allow us to get them overseas and get people more choices.”

Gaither is a supporter of continued protection for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally. He says there’s a large national consensus for legislation that protects this group of immigrants.

“We have to have a sensible policy that acknowledges reality and also connects to our American tradition, which is, we are an immigrant nation.”

Gaither says he also supports modernizing the federal immigration system, so it can do a better job of keeping track of immigrants in the country. And while he says President Trump’s proposal of a multi-billion dollar border wall makes little sense to him, Gaither says he’s ready to support one in a deal that would also include help for Dreamers.

“Sometimes you have to give something to get what you really need,” said Gaither.