Thomas Lynch, a member of the downstate Iroquois County Board, veteran and inspector for the state Department of Agriculture, is running a long-shot campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd). A conservative Republican, Lynch is running on a platform of cutting the federal spending and reallocating dollars through the consolidation of departments and agencies.
Of Lynch’s non-doctrinaire positions, he says abortion rights policy should be left to the states, even if states institute liberal abortion laws. He says the country's safety net for people trying to get back on their feet is one of the best things about it. But he ultimately thinks policymakers are not listening and that, amid inflation, there needs to be change.
"I've been paying attention to politics for awhile and started noticing that the normal guy at the bar or at the coffee shop has a better understanding of what needs to be done than the people who are in Washington," he said in an interview. "Whether it's because of ignorance or intentions, I'm not sure, but all people in my small county of 35,000 seem to pretty much have it nailed down, that things like inflation are getting out of control and the government isn't doing enough to stop it."
Inflation, or when the cost of goods and services rises, has risen about 8.2% over the last 12 months, as of the end of August. Several factors contribute to inflation, such as consumer demand and supply chain disruptions. Economists differ as to whether or not inflation, especially this wave of it, is caused by government spending. Lynch is staunchly opposed to federal spending, partly on the belief that it will only raise inflation.
As such, he attacked the summertime passage of more than $1 trillion in spending — the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act, which impacts health care and climate change policy, and six federal funding bills worth more than $565 billion for transportation, housing, rural and urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, energy and water development, financial services and the Small Business Administration, the Interior Department, the Armed Forces and veterans' affairs.
"Investing money in green infrastructure, which is a majority of the Inflation Reduction Act, is not going to stop inflation," Lynch argued.
Lynch also opposes President Biden and congressional Democrats' signature legislative accomplishes. He is against the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, which contains funds for lead pipe replacement, repairs for roads, highways and bridges, and money for public transit, broadband internet and electric vehicle infrastructure.
"I'd love to spend money on trying to get good infrastructure in place for our transportation sector, but sadly every dollar that we spend right now contributes to inflation," he argued.
Some economists have suggested renewing the child tax credit and hiking taxes on higher earners or disseminating rental assistance during the inflationary spiral, but Lynch also opposes those and other targeted interventions, save for the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, stoking an impending increase in unemployment.
Lynch also takes a dim view of the CHIPS Act, which passed in July and aims to stand-up the U.S. computer chip manufacturing industry with a $50 billion investment. Taiwan, in its bad-and-getting-worse relationship with China, is the world's leading chip and semiconductor manufacturer; the Biden administration has touted the creation of a chip-making industry as an ace in the hole for the defense and other industries in a time of shaky geopolitics. The Commerce Department may begin distributing funds next spring and is increasing its embargoes on chip manufacturing equipment exports to China.
But Lynch says the expenditure is misguided given China's domestic chip and semiconductor industry, though it remains less advanced than the West's and hindered by the country's zero-COVID-19 policy and weakening consumer spending.
Should he be elected, Lynch is most animated about cutting budgets of federal departments and agencies in such a way that doesn't deteriorate delivery of government services. He does, however, think the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished and its roles returned to the states. That department mostly functions to distribute Pell Grants, federal student loans and grants to schools from either Great Society-era legislation or for special education.
He questioned why there is a need for a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a CIA, a FBI or a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement individually, saying, "There are 30 different policing agencies that all do different things, but within the same police department, you have narcotics, undercover, street cops and patrol cops. Why isn't that all one agency with one administration?"
A state employee (meat and poultry inspection) and veteran himself, Lynch said inter-agency communication is and has long been a problem "because they all have their own way of doing things." Consolidation, he claimed, would save money while maintaining fundamentally the same system.
In terms of giving money back to people, Lynch does not want to "gut" Social Security or Medicare per se, though he said he wants to learn more about entitlement policy. He did say there should be "a massive social safety net."
Kelly likes to note that the 2nd congressional district is urban, suburban and rural. On a matter of particular importance to South Siders in the district — and people in Iroquois County, Lynch said — he thinks there should be easier access to legal firearms.
He is against red flag laws, bump-stock bans, trigger-assembly mechanism bans and limits on ammunition capacity, saying none of them would prevent mass shootings.
With low economic opportunities being tied the way that they are to crime, Lynch said he would fight for grant money for trades education for the district if elected: "It's the same north to south; it doesn't matter where you are. Trades are in need, and the kind of money you can make doing that is pretty enticing."
Lynch said he hears a lot from south suburban contractors affected by the Great Society-era Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 3 program, which requires recipients of specific federal funding to give employment, training and contracting opportunities to low-income people and local businesses that employ them. Specifically, he said they tell him the same number of general contractors come in through the grants and then contract the work nationwide. Lynch would like it to be first-come, first-serve for local and income-eligible applicants.
Although he voted absentee when he served in the Army, Lynch thinks voting should be limited to Election Day outside of limited extenuated circumstances. But he thinks "opening that up on a wide scale, whether it's happening or not, does open up the potential for malicious intent, and we don't need the possibility of that in our elections." He worries that things that make it easier to vote like ballot boxes take away elections' credibility.
Lynch does accept Biden as the certified president.
Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly gerrymandered the state's districts so as to provide their party with the maximum number of members of Congress and the legislature. The race between Kelly and Lynch is not expected to be close.
"I'm just here. I'm just talking to people," Lynch said. "I go up north, and I'm learning a lot about the South Side of Chicago area. In my personal opinion, I think the Democrats have done a horrible job of governing in the last two years alone, let alone the COVID-19 era.
"And I've heard a lot of people are upset; that sentiment was going around before I decided to run. And when I decided to run, I see it. I do see it when I go up north, and when I go down to Danville and outside of my little farm bubble. It's there, and people are upset. And a lot of the issues that we're having in this country could be alleviated by our federal government doing something — and in some cases the exact opposite of what they are doing."