Davis has money lead in congressional GOP primary, but Harold has following
There isn't a lot separating U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and his chief Republican challenger, Erika Harold, in Tuesday's Republican primary election in the 13th Congressional District.
Only incumbency and about a million dollars.
In the course of the campaign over the last nine months, there are only a handful issues on which the incumbent congressman and Harold, an Urbana native, former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate seem to disagree: over Davis' vote last December for a federal budget deal that cut pension benefits for some veterans, on a measure compelling states to collect sales taxes on Internet-based sales (Harold against, Davis for), on repeal of the federal death penalty (Harold for, Davis "willing to consider"), on production tax credits for wind energy (Davis for, Harold against), on an amendment to the Hurricane Sandy relief bill that Davis supported last year and, marginally, on the future of the Affordable Care Act.
Although he has voted several times to repeal so-called "Obamacare," Davis signaled last week that he is willing to "fix whatever we can with Obamacare."
He sponsored and passed a bill in the House last week that provides an incentive to small businesses to hire veterans while providing them with relief from the Affordable Care Act.
"I believe that we should actually fix whatever we can with Obamacare, and I'm going to continue to do that," Davis said last week in a radio debate with Harold and the third candidate in the race, Moro veterinarian Michael Firsching.
Firsching and Harold offered a starkly different take.
"I really believe that for the federal government to be involved in our health care is unconstitutional," Firsching said.
Harold said she wanted to "repeal it all and start all over again with consumer-driven" reforms.
"Specifically on the issue of the Affordable Care Act, I don't think it's a bill that can be reformed. When we look at the consequence throughout the district, with people losing plans they liked, having to pay increased premiums and I think we're going to see the full effect of it when the employer mandate goes in effect ... I think it's fundamentally flawed."
"This is an area," Harold asserted, "in which Republicans have to vote no but I think they also have to be willing to put forth their own ideas."
On other issues — reforming Social Security, for example — their differences are more nuanced.
Harold has been upfront about entitlement reform; Davis talks about it only when pressed.
"I think that reforming entitlements, specifically Social Security, is very important. I think it has to be sustainable and solvent and right now Congress has not been very serious about addressing it because obviously it's politically sensitive, but doing nothing is putting us in a position where in 2032 we would have to reduce benefits," she said. "I'm going to make very clear that I'm not going to be targeting these reforms toward those who are close to retirement."
Harold said she favors raising the retirement "for people my age," and "some form of means-testing" for recipients and "financial incentives for those who can to work longer."
Davis, when asked about entitlement reforms, said "there's nobody talking about taking benefits away from anybody who's close to retirement. The tough decisions that are going to have to be discussed for the long-term solvency of Social Security are not to take benefits away, per se; it's to change the system itself for those younger workers like me."
He said "we need an honest discussion with all options on the table for younger workers like me, and my generation."
Davis and Harold agree on building the Keystone XL Pipeline, opposition to abortion, support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one woman and one man, elimination of the estate tax, giving federal judges more leeway in sentencing, and restrictions on the National Security Agency.
The third candidate in the GOP race, Firsching, favors abortion rights, opposes federal drug laws, opposes a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to between a man and a woman and supports a flat tax "with a single deduction of $50,000."
Firsching, who ran in the 13th District primary two years ago and got 13 percent in a three-way race won by former Rep. Tim Johnson, has run a shoestring campaign this time and hasn't reported any campaign contributions or expenditures.
Davis, on the other hand, has raised more than $1.8 million since Jan. 1, 2013, much of it from political action committees in Washington and from his House Republican colleagues.
He has piled up endorsements from his colleagues, Illinois Republican leaders and interest groups, and has effectively ignored Harold and Firsching.
He agreed to only one joint appearance with his challengers, and that was at a small Bloomington radio station at 7 a.m. eight days before the election and after the time early voting had begun.
Harold has raised about $280,000, nearly all of it from individuals. Her biggest contributor is from the Chicago-based conservative political action committee, Family PAC, which has given her campaign $8,000.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Date of birth: Jan. 5, 1970.
Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Illinois state House, 1996; ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Taylorville, 2000; appointed by Republican county chairmen as 13th Congressional District Republican candidate, 2012; won 2012 general election over Democrat David Gill by 1,002 votes; has also served as an aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.
Education: Bachelor's degree in political science, Millikin University, 1992.
Campaign finances (as of Feb. 26):
Raised since Jan. 1, 2013: $1,774,395
Spent since Jan. 1, 2013: $676,997
Cash on hand: $1,114,825
Date of birth: Oct. 3, 1956.
Occupation: Owns private veterinary practice.
Political experience: Served on Edwardsville School Board, Holiday Shores Sanitary District board and Madison County Regional School Board; lost 13th District Republican primary race to incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson in 2012.
Education: Bachelor's degree, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, 1978; doctorate in veterinary medicine, University of Illinois, 1982.
Campaign finances (as of Feb. 26):
Raised since Jan. 1, 2013: none reported
Spent since Jan. 1, 2013: none reported
Cash on hand: none reported
Date of birth: Feb. 20, 1980.
Occupation: Attorney at Meyer Capel, P.C., Champaign.
Political experience: Delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention and featured speaker on the importance of faith-based and community initiatives.
Education: Bachelor's in liberal arts and sciences, University of Illinois, 2001; law degree, Harvard Law School, 2007.
Campaign finances (as of Feb. 26):
Raised since Jan. 1, 2013: $277,020
Spent since Jan. 1, 2013: $128,879
Cash on hand: $137,187