In 1992, Sara Dady was home from college when she got an unexpected call from the area's then-congressman, Don Manzullo.
Her mother had told the representative at the Winnebago County Fair that her daughter disagreed with him on the issues.
Dady, a Democrat in Rockford, debated health care with the 16th District congressman, saying she supported a national health care system known as single-payer. The conservative Republican disagreed. It was a civil discussion, she recalled.
Dady, who is now running for the office Manzullo once held, said the current Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger, doesn't have that kind of contact with constituents. Kinzinger has stopped holding town halls and does interviews with national TV personalities while largely avoiding local media, she said. Kinzinger has hosted public events in the past year, but none in which he takes direct questions in person from the public without passing through a moderator.
His offices are closed to the public unless people have appointments, she said. And she said his staffers don't seem to know how he'll vote on issues that are coming before Congress.
"I think a representative should have consistent contact with constituents," said Dady, who practices law in Rockford. "How can he represent us if he doesn't know us? Based on his voting record, he doesn't know us and doesn't care. There is a barrier in communication between our representative and constituents. That's on him."
Dady is one of the four candidates running in the March 20 Democratic primary. Dady grew up in Rockford and was a 4-Her in school. Her parents were Republican.
'A role to play'
Health care remains one of Dady's big issues, which she said is personal for her.
In 2004, her mother, who was uninsured, tried to get the price of an MRI because the family had a history of aneurysms. Pricing was hard to come by, but she was told such a procedure would cost thousands. She couldn't afford it. She died months later of an aneurysm.
"They cannot tell an uninsured person how much medical care costs. They don't know the price unless you have insurance. When they do tell you the price, it's out of your range," Dady said. "Government has a role to play. I believe that we absolutely have a responsibility to make sure citizens in this country have basic access to service."
She noted Kinzinger supported a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that would have resulted in 37,800 people in the 16th District losing their health care.
Dady also opposed Republican attempts to change the tax code, which include reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and eliminating the estate tax. Corporations and the wealthy, she said, don't need more help.
"Corporations are earning record profits. When Republicans say corporations aren't competitive in the world, all evidence points against that claim," Dady said.
Instead, she said, tax reform should aim to help the middle class.
On foreign policy, she said she disagreed with Kinzinger's muscular foreign policy views.
"He wants more military intervention. That comes at a cost, at a human cost to this country," Dady said.
She also took exception to the Trump administration's reduction of the diplomatic corps, whose "sole job is to promote U.S. interests in a nonviolent way."
'Needs to stand up'
One of Dady's passions is immigration, which is the type of law she practices. She said the immigration system needed to be overhauled.
"We have arbitrarily limited the number of visas, making it difficult to employ people through the worker visa program. The program is not tied to labor market demand in any way," she said.
Dady noted Kinzinger recently signed a letter with 33 other Republican congressmen, calling on action to protect Dreamers from deportation. They are immigrants who illegally moved to the U.S. during childhood.
She said it was a good letter, but Kinzinger needed to make sure the Dreamers are protected.
"Adam Kinzinger needs to stand up and refuse to vote for a spending plan unless there is a fix for (the Dreamers)," Dady said.
The 16th District has long been held by Republicans, but Dady said she believed that could change.
"I think this can be a competitive race," she said. "It would be a mistake for the Republicans to take the 16th District for granted."
IF YOU GO
Democratic congressional candidate Sara Dady, of Rockford, will speak in favor of continuing federal tax credits for historical preservation projects at 11 a.m. Wednesday outside the closed Majestic Theater in Streator.