Meet Ray Lenzi: Q&A with Illinois 12th District candidate

By Matthew Alleyne, Staff Reporter

Editor’s note: Some of these answers have been condensed for clarity.

Ray Lenzi is a former SIU student and was SIU’s executive director for the office of Economic and Regional Development from 1994 to 1999, then the vice chancellor of that same office from 2002 to 2007. 

He’s been a coal miner, professor, husband and father. Lenzi said he never seemed to see a candidate that shared his views when it came time to vote, so he chose to be that candidate and is running to represent Illinois’ 12th district in the house of representatives.

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Lenzi will be running against incumbent Mike Bost.

DE: What is the main goal that you’re hoping to accomplish if elected to the House?

Lenzi: Lenzi said that the main focus for his campaign was getting universal healthcare for all citizens, not just those that can afford it.

“Ultimately, I would like to see a system based on everyone participating through taxation based on income. Everyone has health insurance, and if we have to take certain steps to get there through the public option or Medicare for all, that would be my ultimate goal,” Lenzi said. “That we have a system like much of Western Europe has, where everybody is in the system, everybody can know that their health care needs are going to be taken care of.”

DE: What other issues do you intend to tackle on your path to getting elected?

Lenzi: “[Healthcare and the economy] are the two big issues that the country faces. It’s that, and other issues of course are climate change, where I recognize that global warming is real,” Lenzi said. “My opponent seems to be going along with Donald Trump’s idea that it’s a hoax. So we have to urgently get ready to move to address climate change, promoting renewable energy. I am championing on that and will continue to do it.” 

Lenzi said another issue was incumbent Mike Bost’s non-responsiveness to the citizens and their issues. Lenzi then spoke on what he intends to cover in relation to education, as well as his background in education.

I would like to emphasize that I am an educator. I served at virtually every level of education from preschool to K-12 , to being a professor where I was tenured at the University of Missouri I’m a strong proponent for education,” Lenzi said.

Lenzi said he would support universal tuition-free college education, if it were up for vote.

“I would support whatever the strongest measure is to increase funding and support for education at all levels, so that is a big issue, particularly to me as a lifetime educator, Lenzi said. “I started the SIU Research Park, which has about 500 jobs now out there, and I was the founder of it, so we think that stimulation of the economy and support for higher education are mutually inclusive.” 

DE: One of the things that we saw when looking into your campaign was the trading of civil service, or military service, in place of paying for tuition to go to college. Would that account for someone getting hurt in that military service? Would they be covered for that as well?

“Everyone would be covered, especially those that get injured in serving their country,”  Lenzi said.

DE: An additional thing that you have on your campaign to accomplish is remediation of incarceration. How will you plan to go about that if elected? How do you plan to present that to the house and get that done?

Lenzi: “Well, I say as far as remediation of incarceration, we need to first of all address the issue of nonviolent offences that might be related to the drug laws so that people aren’t being sent to prison for this violation, it doesn’t make sense,” Lenzi said.

Lenzi said economics are a part of it as well, and there needs to be more money for jobs.

“More jobs, particularly in low income and minority communities where unemployment is high, because there is a relationship between income and job availability, and people turning to crime,” Lenzi said. “We definitely need more physical stimulus.”

Lenzi said the minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour. Lenzi also mentioned that things were “out of whack” when it came to income, equality and economic justice.

“Economic justice goes to the heart of the question of incarceration. We obviously need better programs for people returning to society, because right now there’s minimal avenues and this just increases the number of people that go back into crime because they don’t have the options and haven’t been trained for the jobs or even have jobs that are available,”

Lenzi said there is a need for better programs to prepare inmates to return to society because there are currently minimal avenues for this, which increases the number of people who go back to crime because they have no job training or available jobs.

“Those are issues that relate to mass incarceration,” Lenzi said. “I will say I support Black Lives Matter, and I’ll say that phrase, and my opponent doesn’t seem to care, so those are issues that we intend to work for.”

DE: That covers the questions we had. Is there anything else that you want to add that we didn’t ask about?

Lenzi: “Well, we’re going to be going on the offensive next week, really calling Mr. Bost to the carpet for his apparent fear,” Lenzi said.

Lenzi said that he would offer any means, whether on zoom or in person, to debate with Bost in all 12 counties, on all the issues he’s mentioned here and on his campaign site.

Lenzi ended and said, “what is [Bost] afraid of?” 

More info on Ray Lenzi and his campaign can be found here, and his campaign can be reached at [email protected]

Staff reporter Matthew Alleyne can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at matt_alleyne.

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