Voter guide: Mckayla Wilkes, Congress, District 5

Mckayla Wilkes

Democratic candidate for Congress, D5

Age 29

Residence Waldorf, Maryland

Occupation Aside from being a mother of two, I recently left my job as a project control analyst at the Department of Defense to campaign full-time. It’s frightening to leave the stability behind, but I knew this was necessary in order to win and that the possibility of better representation was worth the risk.

Education I took the year off from studying political science at Northern Virginia Community College to run for Congress.

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Previous political experience

For far too long people like me have been left out of the political process and that is exactly why I am running for Congress. I believe we deserve more representative and diverse representation. Prior to my campaign, I worked as a community activist doing work like temporarily sheltering individuals struggling with housing insecurity.

Why are you running for office?

I am running for Congress to bring real political representation to our district. For the past forty years, our district has had a representative that is completely disconnected from our community. Instead of fighting for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform, we have had a representative beholden to corporations, polluters, and special interests. Hoyer has taken donations from pharmaceutical, defense, and fossil fuel industries. Hoyer also voted for every single crime bill that created mass incarceration. Whether you agree with me on every policy matter, I think we can all agree that we deserve better than what we’ve been given.


How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.

The Trump administration has been a bad deal for America and for Southern Maryland. He has caved to the drug companies, not addressed the housing crisis throughout the country, and catered to the top one percent of the country. However, the best thing he has done is awaken the community activist spirit in America. Groups like Indivisible, Swing Left, and others would not exist except for him and they are fighting to make this country better for everyone.


What effect do you believe the federal tax cuts of 2017 have had on the economy thus far or will have in the future and why? Do you support the cuts?

The federal tax cuts have amounted to nothing more than payouts for Trump’s wealthy donors and friends. The only thing they have done for the economy is prove once again that Trickle Down economics does not help working people. I do not support them and instead believe we should raise taxes on the top one percent, so they pay their fair share.


Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and why or why not? What, if anything, should the federal government do to address it?

Economic inequality is one of the biggest challenges facing our country right now. People cannot afford healthcare, college, or their own rent. The federal government needs to do so much more to address these dire issues. At the very least, we need Medicare for All, a green jobs program, a housing guarantee, and livable wages.


Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?

Every day, 100 people are killed by guns in the United States. Federal gun laws must be changed to curb this epidemic of gun violence that is plaguing our country. We need to implement comprehensive universal background checks including medical history for gun violence purchases, prohibit access to firearms to anyone with a history of interpersonal violence, establish a two week waiting period for the purchase of all firearms, pass a federal Extreme Risk Protection Order, establish a minimum age requirement of 21 for all gun purchases, improve how records to gun owners are kept, grant funding for evidence-based gun violence prevention and intervention programs, pass the End Racial Profiling Act, pass the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act, demilitarize local, state and federal law enforcement, strengthen rules and punishments about the use of excessive force by law enforcement, establish a federal grant for the study of gun violence from a public health perspective, and end the creation, marketing and sale of guns that enable the killing of a large number of people. There is clearly a lot that needs to be done. It’s just a matter of having a representative that is not beholden to the gun industry and will fight to ensure that these basic safety measures are put into place.


What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act, how and why? If you believe it should be scrapped, what, if anything, should replace it?

I support Medicare for All. We need healthcare that is free at the point of access and that all people can use, regardless of income. The Affordable Care Act was a good starting point and proved that expanding public health insurance works, but now we must expand it so that it is truly universal, and no sick person is left behind. The amount of money you make should not determine your ability to survive in America. Politicians, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies should no longer be able to profit off our health. It is clear that Medicare for All will save us money in the long term, but regardless, we must choose people over profit.


What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?

We need a federal government that will invest in our cities, especially Baltimore. There are two good ways to do that: building affordable housing and the Green New Deal. Affordable housing will make it easier for people to live and work in Baltimore, without losing so much of their income to rent. The Green New Deal is a green jobs program that will revitalize the struggling parts of Baltimore and help protect the Chesapeake Bay.


Do you back Elijah Cummings’ bill -- which Republicans say is too expensive -- to provide $100 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?

I strongly support the idea to provide $100 billion over 10 years to people suffering from opioid addiction. For too long, America has criminalized addiction instead of recognizing what it really is: an illness. We need federal funds to help suffering communities and it should be passed in tandem with Medicare for All, which provides addiction treatment for free.


What changes, if any, should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies? Should the DACA program be preserved? Why or why not?

Immigrant communities should be able to live, work, and attend school free of fear. Without question DACA should be preserved and expanded. It is a moral imperative that we do so. We also must humanize our immigration system. This means abolishing ICE, taking in more refugees, and creating a simple, easy path to citizenship.


How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?

Trump’s trade stance with China has been a failure. Once again, Trump has sold out working families in favor of his wealthy donors and friends. His actions have placed the burden on American farmers and workers while the benefits go to corporate leaders. We need a trade policy that puts workers first and corporate interests second.


Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?

Absolutely not. The Iran Nuclear Deal was one of the most important diplomatic accomplishments of the past decade. By pulling out of it, Trump has isolated America from the rest of the world and brought us dangerously close to war.


How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?

We need to approach North Korea with diplomacy not the military. Trump has made it hard for countries across the globe to trust us. We need to work with North Korea, China, South Korea, and our allies to stop nuclear weapon proliferation.


How should the United States address climate change?

Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet and the United States must lead the charge against it. This means we must end our dependence on fossil fuels, promote green energy, and impose stronger restrictions on pollution. We also must ensure that politicians are not failing to address climate change with the urgency it deserves because they are beholden to their fossil fuel industry donors. Scientists say we have just a few more years until it’s too late. The time to act was yesterday. We can longer delay the health of your planet. Our future is at stake.


Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?

I strongly support the Green New Deal and it’s imperative that we pass this type of legislation for the future of our planet. We need to mobilize on a national scale to ensure that in the next ten years, 100 percent of domestic electricity demand will be supplied by clean, renewable and zero-emission sources. We also must guarantee a green job with livable wages and comprehensive protections for everyone in the United States all while ensuring that those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – racial minorities, the poor, indigenous communities, the disabled – are intimately involved in the development and implementation of the Green New Deal. We can ensure that we keep our planet habitable for our children and create a more just and robust society while we do it.

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