BLOOMINGTON -- Four Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the 13th Congressional District spent much of their time attacking the tea party, last month's federal government shutdown and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, in a McLean County Democratic Party forum Thursday night.
But there was little talk among the candidates of President Obama's embattled Affordable Care Act.
The forum attracted about 75 people, including David Gill, the Bloomington physician who was the party's candidate in the 13th District last year. Gill said he is not supporting any of the candidates -- Bill Byrnes of Bloomington, Ann Callis of Edwardsville or George Gollin or David Green, both of Champaign -- in the 2014 election.
The newest Democrat in the race, Byrnes, a part-time school bus driver, made his first broad appeal for votes.
"Today people are sick and tired of the BS. They want congressmen who will change the situation by working together," said Byrnes. "That's my hallmark."
Byrnes added, "I'm not a lawyer. Isn't the last thing Washington needs is another lawyer? There's thousands of lawyers in Washington, D.C., and every congressman has a staff of them. Also at 66 I'm not exactly part of the youth movement so I'm not going to be a career politician."
He said that electing him would "send a message loud and clear to Washington: get to work. Give me the chance and I'll work with the other side to hammer out solutions to tough problems. I will never obstruct this democracy, conducting the day to day business of serving all of the people."
Callis, a former Madison County judge and the only lawyer among the four, said she got into the race "because people are angry and they're hurting and all they want are good jobs. They feel like their elected representative, Mr. Davis, is not listening to them."
Gollin, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, said that "a tiny minority of one party, the Republicans' tea party faction, is essentially running the country. Rodney Davis is a member of this gang. They poison our national dialogue by sowing bitter resentment of government and public service."
"At their very worst," Gollin said, "they shut down the entire government in a temper tantrum about an argument that they had already lost. In the end they simply hate government."
Gollin said the 2014 election "is not going to be a year for insiders or incumbents" and said "it will take a strong, clear progressive voice to beat Rodney Davis."
Green, a social policy analyist at the the UI, recounted his "insurgent" campaign platform that he calls "A Better New Deal."
"The new deal part evokes FDR. The better part evokes the occupy movement of the 99 percent," he said.
Green's platform calls for an end to war, increased taxes on the wealthy, cuts in military spending, a government-funded program to fund "at least 10 milion jobs," and a single-payer, universal health care system.
"Our current health care system for profit is killing our economy, our budgets and many citizens, and will continue to do so under the Afordable Care Act, whether Democrats like it or not," Green said.
Gollin said later that he also hoped the United States eventually would move to a single-payer health care system.
Callis said she hoped the problems with Obamacare could be fixed.
"Let's negotiate. You come to the table and let's fix, let's fix the problem," she said. "Don't take a walk. Let's get together and fix this."
The 13th District stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Collinsville and Edwardsville on the southeast, and also includes Springfield, Decatur and parts of Bloomington-Normal.