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    EnCon Police have arrested three men in connection to illegal deer hunting in Roxbury on Monday.

    State EnCon Police and Woodbury Police said they have received numerous complaints of illegal deer hunting after sunset near Roxbury Airport.

    A Woodbury Police officer who was conducting a check of the area around midnight on Monday saw a vehicle traveling along Route 317. The officer said the occupants were actively shining in the open grass fields, which is an area known to be frequented by deer. The officer suspected the occupants were illegally deer jacklighting and conducted a vehicle stop in Roxbury.

    The occupants, later identified as 22-year-old Eftihios Marnelakis, 20-year-old Mihali Marnelakis and 21-year-old Jacob Parcell, all of Southbury, were found to be in possession of numerous flashlights and spotlights, ammunition, and multiple guns including a loaded, high-powered rifle, within the passenger compartment. Officers said there was also evidence of a recent deer kill processing in the bed of the pickup.

    Police arrested the men and transported them to State Police Troop A in Southbury. They are all facing charges including hunting from a public roadway, possession of a loaded weapon in a motor vehicle, jacklighting deer and negligent hunting. They were each released on a $5,000 surety bond and are scheduled to appear in court on November 8.



    Photo Credit: EnCon Police

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    Emergency crews are at a school in New Haven after pepper spray was discharged inside.

    The pepper spray was discharged in an isolated part of the Edgewood Creative Thinking through STEAM Magnet School, which is for students in Kindergarten through eighth grade, according to New Haven Public School officials.

    It is unknown how many students or staff may be affected.

    NBC Connecticut has a crew at the scene and will update this story as details become available.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    Six children at a long-term care medical facility in New Jersey have died after a “severe outbreak” of adenovirus, a family of viruses that can cause mild illness, while 12 others have been infected, according to the state's Department of Health.

    New Jersey Department of Health officials said children were recently infected with adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, Passaic County. The medical institution houses the Pediatric Center.

    The facility has been instructed not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance, the DOH says.

    Adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The viruses cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye. Adenoviruses can pose serious complications to certain people, particularly those with weakened immune systems, respiratory issues and cardiac disease.

    That is the case at the Wanaque Center, health officials said. 

    "Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems," the New Jersey Department of Health in a statement. "This strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living facilities."

    According to the CDC, adenoviruses are typically spread from an infected person to others through: close personal contact such touching or shaking hands; through the air by coughing and sneezing; or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

    Health investigators visited the facility over the weekend as part of their probe, officials said.

    The state Department of Health further said that it is monitoring the situation “very closely” and has been in contact with the staff at the center “providing guidance on infection control and cleaning procedures.”

    The Wanaque Center is a for-profit facility that, according to its website, works with "with medically fragile children" from newborn to 22 years of age. The center also serves as an adult nursing home and rehabilitation center for short- and long-term care.

    A spokesperson for the Wanaque Center did not respond to repeated request for comment.

    The cause of the outbreak remains unclear.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    Two C-130H aircraft made emergency landings at Bradley International Airport Tuesday.

    Major Mike Peterson of the Connecticut National Guard confirmed no one was hurt in either incident.

    Petersen said in both cases the crews made the decision to turn around shortly after takeoff due to in-flight issues and landed without issue. Maintenance crews are investigating the causes.

    The C-130H is a commonly used military transport aircraft.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    A Connecticut State trooper killed in the line of duty was posthumously honored for his involvement defusing a situation involving a man police said was trying for “suicide by cop.”

    Trooper First Class Kevin Miller, who died in the line of duty in a collision with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 84 in Tolland in March, and Trooper First Class Michael Zella were awarded the Medal for Meritorious Service for their response to a situation in August 2017. 

    According to state police, on August 15, 2017, Miller and Zella responded to a call of an intoxicated and despondent man who was threatening to harm himself and anyone who tried to stop him. The man was armed with a knife and inside an apartment with his girlfriend, who had locked herself in the bathroom.

    Police said when the troopers knocked on the door the man brandished a large knife and came at them. Miller deployed his stun gun, stopping the man long enough to disarm the man.

    “The Troopers rapidly brought a potential deadly force situation to an end, allowing the man to receive the medical help needed,” police said in a release.

    Miller and Zella were two of dozens of public servants honored recognized for their service and bravery at a ceremony at the State Police Training academy in Meriden Tuesday. State police present awards to troopers, local and federal law enforcement, first responders and civilians who provide exceptional service on the job.



    Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

    TFC Kevin MillerTFC Kevin Miller

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    A bag of corn starch prompted an emergency response at Torrington High School Tuesday.

    Police and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded when a bag of white powder was found Tuesday. Authorities determined the bag was full of corn starch.

    There was no danger to students or staff, police said, and while precautionary measures were taken, there was little disruption and students were dismissed at the regular time.


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    Some of Connecticut’s neighbors are dealing with severe weather Tuesday afternoon, with a confirmed tornado north of Providence, according to NBC Connecticut Chief Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan.

    There are reports of roofs ripped off homes in Lincoln, RI. Tornado warnings were in effect for parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts as the National Weather Service cautioned residents in the affected areas to take cover.

    Video provided by Glenn Bryant shows what appears to be a funnel cloud near the Bourne Bridge in Massachusetts.

    Parts of Connecticut were at risk for severe thunderstorms with heavy rain and hail.

    Residents should monitor local weather reports and heed weather alerts. Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter, according to the National Weather Service. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is also likely.



    Photo Credit: Glenn Bryant
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    Firefighters rescued one person during a fire at an apartment building in New Britain Tuesday.

    Crews responded to the fire at 38 Broad St. Tuesday afternoon. Fire officials confirmed one person on the fourth floor had to be rescued. They refused medical attention and no injuries have been reported.

    The building houses a building on the ground floor and apartments above.

    Fire officials are still assessing the damage to the building. The cause of the fire is under investigation.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Fire crews responded to a fire at an apartment building at 38 Broad St. in New Britain Tuesday.Fire crews responded to a fire at an apartment building at 38 Broad St. in New Britain Tuesday.

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    Crews responded to a fire at a townhouse in Vernon Tuesday.

    Vernon police confirmed a structure fire at 1031 Hartford Turnpike. The building and several surrounding units were evacuated.

    Police said no injuries have been reported.

    This is developing story. Check back for updates.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

    Crews on scene at a fire at a townhouse in Vernon Tuesday.Crews on scene at a fire at a townhouse in Vernon Tuesday.

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    More than three dozen doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are criticizing Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski after NBC Connecticut aired exclusive video of the candidate expressing skepticism of childhood vaccines and the state law requiring kids get immunized in order to attend school.

    The group of health professionals includes pediatricians, registered nurses, and other specialists.

    "As pediatricians, it is deeply concerning to us that a candidate for governor would spread flagrant disinformation about childhood vaccinations," The group wrote of Stefanowski’s comments.

    They went on to describe Stefanowski’s position as, "downright dangerous," and "irresponsible."

    Stefanowski spoke to the Quiet Corner Tea Party in July of this year as he was courting voters for the GOP nomination.

    The video obtained by NBC Connecticut showed an exchange between the GOP nominee and a participant at the meeting who could not be seen on camera.

    The questions were exclusively about mandatory vaccination requirements for students to attend public school.

    Stefanowski said of immunizations, "I would look at it. I don’t think we should be forcing people to inject a ton of chemicals into their kids but I would want to see more about it."

    He added, "We shouldn’t be dumping a lot of drugs into kids for no reason," and said parents who home school their children should not have to vaccinate their children.

    A spokesman for Stefanowski told NBC Connecticut, "Bob's position here is in line with the law. While he believes that the best practice is to vaccinate your children, he does not believe that the government should be able to legally force you to do so."

    Connecticut’s immunization standards, while codified in state statute, were not developed in Connecticut. They come from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

    Mick Bolduc has been with the Connecticut Department of Public Health for 28 years, and runs the Connecticut Immunization Program. The program provides vaccines free of charge to physicians, so they can distribute them to patients and children, increasing access to the medicine.

    Bolduc says as Western Europe is dealing with a measles outbreak, Connecticut isn’t for a simple reason.

    "We’re not seeing outbreaks here in Connecticut, and one of the reasons why we’re not seeing outbreaks here in Connecticut is because we have a highly vaccinated population."

    Bolduc said, "If we have a highly vaccinated population, yes. We might see sporadic cases but you’re not going to see a sustained outbreak if you have a highly vaccinated population."

    Stefanowski also says in the video that he and his wife decided that immunizations were best for his three daughters and said he would not commit to any kind of hypothetical legislation changing the state’s vaccination laws.


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    A Connecticut trade school in New London shut down without warning in April, leaving students and staff in limbo. But Monday Porter and Chester Institute opened a New London campus in the same building, giving the same people who said they were heartbroken a chance to get back into the classroom.

    "I was only there for three days and the fourth day and we pulled up and nobody was around. The doors were closed," said Ashely Weed of New London.

    She always dreamed of working in the medical field, especially after her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. So when Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute closed without warning, she cried.

    Ridley-Lowell administration cited severe financial challenges and that its national accreditor was eliminated as reasons for closing.

    Afterward, Weed tried to take classes at Branford Hall Career Institute, but she didn’t stay long.

    "It was an hour drive...I was going to work too," Weed said.

    Then she heard Porter and Chester was opening in New London, in the same building at 470 Bank St. The institute also offered coursework in electrical, dental assisting and in her program, medical assisting.

    The school also updated classrooms and equipment.

    Carol Cournoyer, campus director of operations and education, was hired back into her role at the new campus along with three other faculty and administration employees. A few of the 20 students currently in classes are former Ridley-Lowell students.

    "I think Porter and Chester had a plan in mind. If there were instructors available they wanted to reach out and offer them employment opportunities," Cournoyer said.

    At the time it closed, Cournoyer said Ridley-Lowell had 147 students, 20 faculty members and five administrators.

    "Our hope is that the more students find out about the Porter and Chester location here in New London, those students who felt that perhaps other schools were a bit too far of a drive, they now know this resource is right here," she added.

    According to Cournoyer, she worked for a few weeks without pay after Ridley-Lowell shut down to make sure student records were properly given to the state.

    Medical assistant instructor Terry Thurrott said her heart broke for her student back in April and she’s thrilled to be back teaching, thanks to Porter and Chester.

    "I’m so happy they’re here and to get back to teaching," Thurrott said.

    Night classes start in January and Cournoyer said former Ridley-Lowell students have already signed up.

    Courtney Birdsell, a former student, said she wished she knew Porter and Chester was coming to New London sooner. She had already enrolled in another school and is traveling an hour for her medical assisting classes now.


    Porter and Chester Institute opened a New London campus in the same building that once housed Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute, which closed without warning in April.Porter and Chester Institute opened a New London campus in the same building that once housed Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute, which closed without warning in April.

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    A plane struck by lightning while traveling from New Hampshire to Orlando, Florida, was diverted to Bradley International Airport Tuesday evening.

    Airport officials confirmed the Southwest Airlines flight took off from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport landed safety in Connecticut after the lightning strike. Operations at the airport were not affected.

    More details were not immediately available.



    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

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    Residents in Lincoln, RI are recovering from quite the scare when a tornado took down trees and power lines Tuesday afternoon.

    "I have to tell you, my sister who I’m staying with we came from Cambridge, England. We were thoroughly unprepared for this - however we moved from the window and it just kept coming and coming and afterwards we walked around and we couldn’t believe it," George Mollo said.

    The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down, causing all the damage.

    "I did something you should never do I actually went outside but I was waiting for my daughter to get off the bus and I was afraid where was her bus and what happened to it," Marisa Crowell said.

    Her daughter and the rest of the family were not hurt, but Crowell found trees and power lines down all across their lawn.

    "I didn’t know anything about a tornado I just thought it was really windy and it was knocking the trees down we have some pretty old trees around here and we were afraid some of them could knock down,” Crowel said.

    The dogs down the street appeared to know something was coming before the severe weather hit.

    "The dogs were freaking out we have four dogs and they were barking and it had happened an hour before and my sister said What’s going on with these animals? It’s almost as if they had a premonition and it kept getting longer and longer and longer and then the rain started and all I kept thinking was I’m not going to see the World Series and then bam we lost it," Mollo said.

    Power crews are working to restore power to the affected areas.

    "It lasted like a minute and a half in that time we were just mesmerized," Mollo said.


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    A patient receiving health care services in one part of the United States could pay twice as much as a patient living elsewhere, according to a new study.

    Prices were highest in San Jose and lowest in Baltimore in 2016 for privately insured patients, the Health Care Cost Institute found.

    The Washington-based nonprofit group analyzed nearly 1.8 billion health insurance claims filed between 2012 and 2016. It then calculated a nationwide average for health care prices and ranked 112 metros against that average.

    Although prices generally were well above average on the West Coast and the Northeast, regional patterns broke down elsewhere.

    Across the Midwest, prices were below the national average in most cities, including Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland. But Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wis., were the fourth and fifth most expensive areas nationwide, just behind San Francisco and ahead of San Diego.

    “It reinforces this idea that all health care is local,” said Bill Johnson, a senior health researcher with the institute.

    There is little logic to health care prices within regions. Metros with professional fees near the national average sometimes have very high hospital prices and vice versa.

    In Los Angeles, professional fees are 5 percent below the national average while prices for inpatient (hospital) stays and outpatient services (emergency room and procedures such as colonoscopies) are 28 percent and 30 percent above the national average respectively.

    Green Bay has the fifth highest health costs in the nation — 14 percent above the national average. But it’s too simple to say that health care is expensive in Green Bay. Inpatient and outpatient costs are below the national average there while professional fees are 43 percent above the national average.

    Kevin Kennedy, a researcher at the institute, said that examples like this “help direct attention to what the right question is to ask.”

    For example, in Dayton, Ohio (health care costs 11 percent below the national average), inpatient charges are 18 percent above average. In Boston (health care costs 3 percent above the national average), professional fees are 22 percent above average. In San Jose (health care costs 65 percent above the national average), outpatient charges are a whopping 117 percent above average.

    “It seems like there’s a different reason (for high costs) for every area,” Kennedy said.

    “Health care isn’t one big problem,” Johnson said. “It’s a series of little problems.”

    The institute plans additional reports to see how usage and competition affect the price of health care.

    The group analyzed health claims data from four major insurers — Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente — representing more than 50 million individuals.



    Photo Credit: jdoms - stock.adobe.com

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    Cleanup is underway after a pair of tornadoes slammed two New England towns on Tuesday.

    Sandwich, Massachusetts and Lincoln, Rhode Island were ravaged by tornadoes that caused harsh downpours and trees to topple over.

    The National Weather Service confirmed the Rhode Island tornado touched down at 3:34 p.m. and the Massachusetts phenomenon at approximately 6 p.m. NWS officials are slated to determine the strength, size and duration of the Lincoln tornado on Wednesday.

    Nearby towns had toppled trees that left debris scattered around streets and numerous reports of downed power lines were received. Roofs could be seen ripped off of homes as well as shattered windows.

    No injuries associated with Tuesday’s storms were immediately reported



    Photo Credit: NBC10 Boston

    A perfect line of trees are ripped from through roots in Lincoln, Rhode Island following a tornado.A perfect line of trees are ripped from through roots in Lincoln, Rhode Island following a tornado.

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    The chances of winning the Mega Millions are a truly miraculous 1-in-302.6 million, so why did so many people play for the $1.6 billion jackpot?

    According to UCLA psychiatry professor Timothy M.D. Fong, it involves buying into the fantasy we might win, rather than really believing we will, NBC News Better reports.

    Americans "love spectacular scenes and big events. When you think about it, lining up to buy lottery tickets is completely unnecessary, but people do it because they want to be a part of the spectacle," he said.

    One study has shown that winning the lottery leads to a better life, but another has shown that people who feel poor tend to play more, and Fong said it's also possible to get addicted.



    Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    A man walks past advertisements for the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries at the New York Lottery Customer Service Center in New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. The $1.6 billion Mega Millions prize drawn Tuesday night was the largest lottery prize in U.S. history.A man walks past advertisements for the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries at the New York Lottery Customer Service Center in New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. The $1.6 billion Mega Millions prize drawn Tuesday night was the largest lottery prize in U.S. history.

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    Route 66 in East Hampton has reopened after a crash closed it on Wednesday morning.

    A two-car crash temporarily closed Route 66 at Lake Road around 6 a.m.

    Police said the injuries do not appear to be serious, but at least two people are going to the hospital.

    It is unclear what may have caused the crash.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    A seventh child who was treated at a long-term care medical facility in New Jersey has died after a “severe outbreak” of adenovirus, a family of viruses that can otherwise cause mild illness, according to the state's Department of Health.

    New Jersey Department of Health officials said 18 children were recently infected with adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, Passaic County. The medical institution houses the Pediatric Center; the seven deaths came from the 18 infected kids. 

    The facility has been instructed not to admit any new patients until the outbreak ends and they are in full compliance, the DOH said Tuesday. 

    "The Department continues to work very closely with the facility to ensure that all infection control measures are being followed," DOH added in a new statement Wednesday. 

    Adenoviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The viruses cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye. Adenoviruses can pose serious complications to certain people, particularly those with weakened immune systems, respiratory issues and cardiac disease.

    That is the case at the Wanaque Center, health officials said. 

    "Unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus (#7) in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems," the New Jersey Department of Health in a statement Tuesday. "This strain has been particularly associated with disease in communal living facilities."

    According to the CDC, adenoviruses are typically spread from an infected person to others through: close personal contact such touching or shaking hands; through the air by coughing and sneezing; or by touching an object or surface with adenoviruses on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

    Health investigators visited the facility over the weekend as part of their probe, officials said.

    The state Department of Health further said that it is monitoring the situation “very closely” and has been in contact with the staff at the center “providing guidance on infection control and cleaning procedures.”

    The Wanaque Center is a for-profit facility that, according to its website, works with "with medically fragile children" from newborn to 22 years of age. The center also serves as an adult nursing home and rehabilitation center for short- and long-term care.

    A spokesperson for the Wanaque Center did not respond to repeated request for comment.

    New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement on the adenovirus outbreak saying that he is "heartbroken by the news that several children have lost their lives."

    "I have been briefed by [Commissioner of Health] Dr. [Shereef] Elnahal, who has assured me that the Department of Health has recommended vital measures to enhance protections against the further spread of infection and will continue its active on-site surveillance," Murphy says in his statement. "I am confident that the steps being taken by state and local officials will minimize the impact to all those who remain at the facility, including patients and employees.”

    The cause of the outbreak remains unclear.



    Photo Credit: News 4 NY

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    Susan Kaye Quinn joined the Republican Party in her early 20s for its conservative economic policies and said she was a dedicated member over the next three decades. She voted straight-ticket Republican, campaigning for candidates in her home state of Illinois and attending party events around her congressional district in the suburbs north and west of Chicago.

    "I was a part of the party until they nominated Donald Trump," said Quinn, a 53-year-old novelist and former environmental engineer, in a phone interview. "But I didn't leave the Republican Party, the party left me."

    Appalled by Trump's rhetoric and many of his policies, Quinn crossed party lines in 2016 to vote for the Democratic candidates for president and Congress, she said. Hillary Clinton carried Illinois' 6th Congressional District by seven points even as the Republican House incumbent, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, was easily reelected to a sixth term.

    "The Republicans threw out their principles," Quinn said. "They overlooked moral issues, Russia meddling in our elections. They overlooked all of that to gain power in Trump’s popularity."

    This article, part 4 in a series, examines one of the key battleground races for control of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Carried by grassroots momentum, Democrats must take 23 seats from Republicans to win the balance of power. They are contending with Republicans' experience and organization, and an outspoken but polarizing president.

    Democrats looking to regain control of the House are hoping to separate socially progressive, economically conservative Republican voters in the 6th District from a Republican Party that moved further to the right on positions of abortion, immigration and LGBTQ rights, among other issues. Two issues they have seized on are health care and opposition to Trump's tax bill. 

    Republicans in districts that went for Clinton have been forced to thread a line between appealling to moderates fed up with Trump while maintaining support among the president's base. 

    “It’s a tough year for Republicans in suburban Illinois, we know it, but Congressman Roskam has stood up to the President on issues, especially trade and is unique in his style and not a cookie cutter Republican,” said Kirk Dillard, a former DuPage County Republican chairman and veteran of Illinois politics, in an emailed statement to NBC. “Peter Roskam is on sound footing with his base.”

    Roskam touts himself as a moderate who opposes Trump's trade war, has advocated for a universal background checks system and elimination of bump stocks. Despite voting repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Roskam said he supports protections for pre-existing conditions and has proposed expanding access to pre-tax health savings accounts to help pay for deductibles. The 57-year-old from Wheaton is also staunchly anti-abortion and supports legislation banning the use of federal dollars from going to organizations that provide abortion services.

    "Those are the things that I'm voting on and I think those are the things that represent voters of the 6th District," Roskam told NBC. "And the proof of that is I've consistently won these elections with these views."

    But Roskam's attempts to repeal the ACA while refusing to hold town halls with constituents hasn't sat well with a number of conservative and independent voters in the district. And neither did the $1.5 trillion Republican tax bill Roskam helped write, which will hurt some in high-tax states like Illinois by capping their state and local tax deductions.

    "How do you respond when your representative doesn't hold a town hall to avoid hearing criticism and makes no bones about the fact the he has increased our tax burden?" Ken Hillman, a father of three from Cary, told NBC in a phone interview.

    Others disenchanted with the congressman they once supported are evangelicals — voters Roskam has historically relied on — who feel that many Republican policies are contrary to Christian values.

    Kristin Sterling, a 52-year-old bookkeeper at a Presbyterian church in DuPage County, told NBC she had voted for Roskam because their mothers were involved in a church women's group together and she believed "he was very religious and Christian. But the idea that we are all about ourselves, would strip health care from the poor and sick, and don't care about neighbors and the community, really bothered me." 

    The Democrat hoping to capitalize on Roskam's newfound weakness is Sean Casten, a clean-energy entrepreneur and political newcomer from Downers Grove. Casten emerged from a crowded field to defeat initial frontrunner Kelly Mazeski, a breast cancer survivor, in the primary.

    Casten has made protecting and expanding health care access under the Affordable Care Act a top priority of his campaign. He says he's "unapologetically" pro-choice and supports legislation that will protect young immigrants living under former President Barack Obama's now-threatened Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

    Casten has also vowed to work on restoring state and local tax deductions and proposes investments in infrastructure and clean energy as a way to boost the middle class economy.

    That appeal seems to be working. Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted its rating for the district from tossup to leaning Democratic.

    "Democrats didn't get their ideal nominee here back in March, but in this kind of political environment, it may not matter," said Cook's David Wasserman in his ratings analysis of the race. "Roskam, who hasn't had a competitive race since beating now-Sen. Tammy Duckworth for this seat in 2006, is now trailing Casten in both parties' polling."

    Red, Blue and Green
    The 6th District is predominantly white, highly educated and affluent. More than 50 percent of residents have college degrees and the median household income is just shy of $100,000, according to the Census. That's potentially bad news for Roskam in the current environment — a March poll from Pew Research Center found a larger share of college graduates favor Democrats.

    Roskam's seat has been solidly Republican since the mid-1970s, reinforced in 2011 when the Democratic-controlled state legislature redrew the district to pack in Republicans and maximize Democrats' hold on surrounding districts. But despite the gerrymandering, the C-shaped district that arcs through Chicago suburbs in five counties has voted for presidents of both parties in recent years: Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016.

    "When Hillary won in 2016 we realized there are more of us here than we think, and there are fewer hard-right Republicans in this district than we assumed," said Leslie Sadowski, a liberal who moved to Downers Grove in 2012. "In the past, I think most people took for granted that it was a red district and stayed home."

    Peter Cooper, a lawyer from DuPage County, said he's never been involved in Democratic politics and voted Republican in the 2016 primary, but did not support Trump. 

    "I was so appalled by the tenor and tone of President-elect Trump that I began looking for opportunities to get involved," he said.

    Cooper joined political activism groups, encouraged friends to consider runs for public office and has volunteered for Casten's campaign.    

    And Cooper is not alone. More than 67,000 residents voted in this year's crowded Democratic primary, up from just 8,615 in the 2014 midterm primary.

    Roskam, who ran unopposed both years, received 56,544 votes this year. The Republican's vote total was down by nearly 9,000 from four years earlier.

    Dillard warned not to discount Roskam's support among a "tried and true conservative" base, which includes evangelicals, and told NBC he believes they will be loyal to the congressman "even if some want to break with Republicans."

    Both candidates have seen millions of dollars pour in from their parties and outside groups.

    Roskam spent about $800,000 more than Casten and had nearly $500,000 more on hand through the end of September, according to their Federal Election Commission filings. More than $1 million has been spent by outside groups to attack Casten or back Roskam, compared to less than $200,000 to support Casten or oppose Roskam.

    Roskam's Pre-Existing Condition: Voting Record
    Wasserman noted Roskam's vulnerability stems from his party-line votes. According to the political analysis website FiveThirtyEight, the congressman has voted in line with Trump's position 94.6 percent of the time.

    "I don't see why we'd fire our representative to get back at the president," Brad Hagstrom, a Roskam supporter from Downers Grove, told NBC. "I believe Peter is an American first and a Republican second."

    In a September debate with Casten, Roskam stood by his congressional record, arguing that many of the votes included in the FiveThirtyEight statistics were for "common-sense" legislation like hurricane and opioid relief, support for veterans, funding for government agencies and sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. Roskam called Casten's claim that he's aligned with the White House an "over-characterization" and said he's condemned Trump both privately and publicly on issues like trade tariffs and funding cuts to the Great Lakes clean-up and preservation program. 

    But it was Roskam's repeated votes to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, most recently by backing the GOP's American Health Care Act last summer, that voters who spoke to NBC found "reprehensible." The bill, a priority for the Trump administration, passed the House but was narrowly voted down in the Senate.

    For months before the vote, Roskam had refused to hold town hall meetings with constituents who were concerned about losing pre-existing condition protections they had under the Affordable Care Act. Citing the "drama" at those types of events, he instead conducted tele-town halls, "which are much more civil," he told NBC.

    Few of the constituents who spoke to NBC have been satisfied with the "don't call me, we'll call you" format, which selects callers and prescreens questions, and Roskam has been hounded by protesters demanding a public meeting.

    Roskam told NBC that the ACA is a "catastrophic failure" because of rising premiums and limited providers in the exchange for some areas of the country.

    However, experts argue that a major factor behind rising premiums and the reduction of health care options was uncertainty over the law's future caused by frequent attempts by the Republican party to kill or weaken it. The average price of premiums for benchmark plans will actually go down by about 1.5 percent in 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced this month. That's because insurers who increased the price of 2018 premiums in reaction to the failed Republican repeal bill are now rolling back prices to correct for overinflation.

    Roskam said he is advocating for a replacement health care plan that will increase competition, lower premiums and include protections for pre-existing conditions. But with the individual mandate repealed under the tax bill, many of the constituents who spoke to NBC said they question the feasibility of attaining a comparable level of coverage to the ACA without either increasing cost or cutting services.

    "Insurance as a business model is made up of a risk pool. You need healthy people to balance the cost of the unhealthy ones," said Cooper, the DuPage lawyer. "I think it's disingenuous to suggest that we are going to reduce premiums but increase benefits, but we need to find better and more efficient ways to provide health care."

    Cooper said he believes in access to health care for all and is skeptical of Roskam's "lip service" to pre-existing conditions without offering specifics on an overall plan.

    Casten's platform calls for building on "Obamacare," as the Affordable Care Act is often called, and moving the country toward universal health care by creating a public option for people to buy into the Medicare system.

    "What we should be doing from a data perspective is recognize that as a country we spend more per capita on health care than any other country in the world and have worse outcomes than every other country that has universal health care. And the ACA was not universal health care but it was closer than what we had before," Casten said in a phone interview.

    Cutting the SALT on Taxes 
    Like many Republican members of Congress in Democratic-leaning states across the country, Roskam faces the challenge of defending the $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that were part of the Republicans' Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts of 2017. 

    In a high-tax state like Illinois, where more than 43 percent of returns claim SALT, property and sales taxes, many voters in the 6th District may be particularly hard hit by the cap on their SALT deductions, according to the Tax Policy Center.

    Roskam, who is the chairman of the Tax Policy Subcommittee for the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said the original version of the GOP bill had a zero-deduction allowance and that he insisted on the $10,000 break, calling it a "sweet spot" for his district. He maintains that middle-class families will see a net benefit due to changes in other parts of the tax law.

    But constituents who aren't seeing a big bump in their paychecks are skeptical. 

    "My property taxes alone is over the $10,000 cap, so the SALT limit will definitely hurt my family this year," said Carolynne Funk, a mother of four from Lake Zurich, who plans to vote for Casten.

    Proponents of the SALT cap, like Hagstrom and Deborah Kraus of Hillsdale, defend the decision. Kraus said that while she may pay more in taxes, limiting the deduction puts pressure on the "Illinois machine" to reduce taxes and tighten its spending belt.

    For Crystal Lake resident Greg Alexander, his biggest concern is the long-term impact of the $1.5 trillion tax cut on the federal deficit budget. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that it will add $1.9 trillion to the national debt by 2028, and could be higher if provisions of the tax cut that are set to expire are renewed instead. 

    "Eventually the deficit will need to be paid down, and they are going to do that by cutting Social Security, Medicare and other safety nets," Alexander said. "It's just horrible."

    Asked about concerns over the deficit, Roskam told NBC that said while he understands the criticism, the money borrowed to pay for tax cuts will keep companies and jobs in Illinois and the U.S. "The question is do you take on debt to buy something that is increasing in value and the answer is 'yes,'" he added. 

    Casten has vowed to restore SALT deductions and said he supports lifting the payroll cap, currently $128,400, on earnings subject to the Social Security tax in order to fund entitlement programs long-term. He said he also supports raising the gas tax, which was last increased in 1993, to pay for road and other infrastructure projects.   

    "These are the things that are going to help the economy and the middle class," Casten said. "Not huge tax cuts skewed to the very wealthy."

    More Than Just 'Pro-Birth'
    Jeff Greenberg, a historically single-issue voter from Wheaton, told NBC he is abandoning the anti-abortion ticket this year to vote for Casten, a shift for a district that was previously represented by Henry Hyde, the namesake of the Hyde Amendment restricting federal funding for abortion.

    Greenberg, a "pro-life evangelical Christian" who teaches geology and environmental science at Wheaton College, the alma mater of Rev. Billy Graham, said that while he disagrees with Casten on the issue of abortion, he feels his proposals for health care, taxes and for tackling climate change are more aligned with his Christian values than those of Roskam.

    Greenberg said he had always voted a pro-life ticket, supporting Roskam in at least two elections. But with Roskam defending Trump's Muslim ban, repeatedly voting to repeal the ACA, failing to protect "Dreamers" and supporting a tax bill that "further widens the income inequality gap," Greenberg said he's realized that anti-abortion advocacy can't be the only thing he looks for in a candidate.   

    "To be a pro-life, you got to be more than just pro-birth," Greenberg said.

    Roskam did not respond directly to the "pro-birth" criticism but he told NBC he's "not going to be defensive about being pro-life" and condemned Casten for not supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act — restricting abortions at 20 weeks — and favoring expanding the availability of taxpayer-funded abortions.

    Casten maintained that abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor and not the government. He told NBC he believes the only way to actually reduce incidents of abortion is by decreasing the chances of unplanned pregnancy through access to contraception, maternity health services and sex-education. Those are all positions that Greenberg said he supports.       

    Casten is also capitalizing on a growing contingent of voters who support women's reproductive rights and are frustrated over the Republicans' resolve to defund organizations that provide preventative care like Planned Parenthood. 

    "As a college student and a young professional, I relied on Planned Parenthood for affordable birth control," said 49-year-old Erin Micklo of Glen Ellyn. "This administration's determination to destroy both affordable contraception for those who cannot afford it and their desire to make medical and reproductive decisions for women is abhorrent and terrifying."

    Micklo has voted for Roskam four times, including 2016, she said. But the high school teacher said she is the parent of a gay daughter and a son with a disability and is actively working to flip the 6th in the midterms in order to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans and pre-existing conditions afforded under the ACA so that her son will always have access to healthcare.

    "In some ways, at nearly 50 years old, I feel more alive and energized than I've ever felt in my life," Micklo added.


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    A small vintage plane crash-landed on lanes of the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills Tuesday, bursting into flames, and amazingly, the pilot walked away.

    The North American SNJ-5 airplane with the pilot aboard as the solo occupant crashed near the center lanes of the northbound 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road around 1:15 p.m., according to the LA County Fire Department. 

    The plane's wing, still aflame, was draped over the center divider as crews worked to extinguish the blaze and amazed commuters recorded video.

    The back end of the plane appeared to be missing as the fire continued to burn on lanes. It took off from Van Nuys Airport, a spokesperson confirmed. 

    All lanes were to be closed for an unknown duration. Traffic on the northbound side was backed up for miles as crews worked to clear the wreckage. 

    The vintage aircraft featuring German markings on the wings is usually seen in parades and belongs to the Condor Squadron club, Van Nuys Airport said. The club non-profit organization -- founded by WWII pilots in 1965 -- is dedicated to preserving aviation history.

    The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.


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