DIXON – The national health care battle being waged in Washington is a very personal one for Democrat Sara Dady.
For the Rockford immigration attorney, her story is a huge motivating factor in her run for Congress in the 16th District. She shared that story with a group of local Democrats during a campaign appearance Wednesday at Lee County Democratic Party headquarters.
In 2004, Dady had just finished working on her juris doctor at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, when she received a phone call that would turn her world upside down. Her mother had unexpectedly died, but Dady believes the shortcomings of the health care system were partly to blame.
“Before she died, she said she needed to get an MRI because our family has a history of aneurysms,” Dady said. “She called the hospital to find out how much it would cost, but because she was uninsured, they couldn’t tell her how much it would be, only that it would be thousands of dollars.”
Her mother gave up and never got the MRI. She had worked as a teacher all of her life, but at that point in life, she had been working part time.
“I am a strong believer in universal health care – in the wealthiest country in the world, no one should ever lose a loved because they can’t get care,” Dady said.
Her mother taught her to have pride in her country while valuing other cultures, which made immigration law a natural fit.
After her mother’s death, the family moved back to her hometown of Rockford, so her kids could be indirectly influenced by their grandmother.
Dady faces three other Democrats in the March 20 primary, but she has taken aim at the Republican incumbent, Adam Kinzinger of Channahon.
“Adam has been an absentee congressman,” Dady said. “I will make sure I’m back in the district to field questions and be held accountable to the voters.”
Dady, who says she is a strong supporter of workers’ rights, attacked Kinzinger’s voting record on labor issues.
“He votes against labor 70 percent of the time in an economy in which workers aren’t sharing in the profits,” Dady said. “When he keeps stabbing workers in the back, it’s only a matter of time before he kills you.”
Her health care views play a big role in how she sees the economy. She said the system must be fixed to stimulate job growth.
“It’s unsustainable for small and even larger companies to pay health premiums,” Dady said. “Health care is the single biggest issue inhibiting job growth.”
When asked about immigration, Dady said people often lose sight of the business implications of keeping foreign workers out of the country.
“Make no mistake, this is a business issue,” Dady said. “Agriculture depends on immigrants for low-cost migrant labor, and especially in rural areas, the medical field depends on foreign doctors.”
The Trump administration has rolled back the H-1B visa program for foreign workers in specialty programs, citing the need to fix abuses in the program. Thousands of workers, many in the medical and technology sectors, are in limbo.
The U.S. isn’t producing doctors quickly enough, and without the visa program, the shortage would be much more obvious to rural patients needing treatment in a timely fashion.
Dady, who has children ages 13 and 10, said education is also at the core of her platform.
“We know that public education can work, but not when students leave school with a mound of debt,” Dady said.
When the conversation turned to campaign finance reform, Dady took the opportunity to segue into her fundraising efforts. She said big money and special interests became more corrosive forces when people stopped taking part in the political process. Getting more volunteers involved can cut down on campaign costs.
“I’ve raised more than anyone in this primary, and I’m doing it with small contributions in this district,” Dady said.
Dady applauded the gains made by Democrats in Tuesday’s elections, particularly in Virginia and New Jersey.
“We are seeing why a coordinated effort is needed,” Dady said. “We’re not riding the momentum from this election, we’re creating it.”
Getting more people to the polls played a big role in the states that saw key wins by Democrats. Precinct committee workers were told that generating interest is best done the old-fashioned way.
“The number one way to reach voters and turn out the vote is to knock on doors,” said Cynthia Sebian-Lander, Dady’s campaign manager. “Democrats had historic victories yesterday, especially in Virginia, where they had high voter turnout.”
Also running in the 16th District Democratic primary are Nathan Arroyave, a Rockford financial adviser; Neill Mohammad, a DeKalb hospital management consultant; and Christopher Minelli, an Ottawa attorney; and Amy Murri Briel, a Joliet community activist.
Dady’s appearance was sponsored by Action for a Better Tomorrow – Sauk Valley.
Race: 16th Congressional District
Education: Bachelor's degree in from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; juris doctor from William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Profession: Founding immigration attorney at Dady & Hoffman in Rockford