URBANA — In the only substantive debate before Tuesday's primary election, the Democratic candidates in the new 13th Congressional District on Wednesday night disagreed on a number of topics including term limits, quickly getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, cutting the military budget and their willingness to take corporate campaign support.
But congressional hopefuls Matt Goetten of Carollton and David Gill of Bloomington agreed on abortion rights, gay marriage, flaws in the Obama health care plan, and the need to try to use diplomacy to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
The debate, held at WILL-TV, was co-sponsored by Illinois Public Media and the League of Women Voters.
On whether they would support a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits, Gill said yes and Goetten said no.
"A lot of my friends tell me the downside to it; I think the upside outweighs the downside," Gill said.
Goetten, however, said he would oppose an amendment imposing term limits. "Using my office as an example," said Goetten, who is the state's attorney in Greene County, "there is a great deal of institutional knowledge that you gain over a period of time."
Gill called for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
"Once upon a time, a long, long time ago ... when the mission was to apprehend the perpetrators of 9/11, I supported the initial invasion. But that was 11 years ago now. The perpetrator of 9/11 has been killed and I don't think our ongoing presence there is making life any safer for anybody here in Illinois 13 and probably not for anybody in Afghanistan," Gill said.
But Goetten, who has served in Afghanistan in the Illinois Army National Guard, cautioned against a quick withdrawal.
"It is not a situation where you can rapidly withdraw. It is a situation where we do not want to destabilize in Afghanistan for the safety of, if nothing else, our own troops over there," he said. "I would caution about a rapid withdraw, but I would agree that we need to be out of Afghanistan."
After the debate, Goetten said that setting a withdrawal deadline would be wrong.
"I don't think a deadline set by a politician is appropriate. It should be set by the generals," he said.
Gill said cuts in the military budget by the Obama administration are warranted.
"I think that's a responsible means of reining in spending. I don't think those steps proposed by the president make anybody here in central Illinois any less safe," said the emergency room physician.
But Goetten said the cuts proposed are too deep.
"Is there room to cut and the specific cuts that the Congress is going to have the (Defense Department take), I don't agree with that," he said. "If we take ... a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer to it, I think it can be done in a rational way."
But the two seemed to agree on same-sex marriage and their opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.
"It's shameful that the Defense of Marriage Act ever got passed," said Gill. "We're going to look back in hopefully not too many years and say what was going on back there in 2012 when they wouldn't let two consenting adults get married?"
Goetten asserted that the law was unconstitutional and said, "I, like David, am for equality." After the debate, he repeated "that I am for equality in marriage."