Davis, Callis debate in race for Congress

Davis, Callis debate in race for Congress

URBANA — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Democratic challenger Ann Callis of Edwardsville waited until after the TV cameras were turned off on Thursday night to address the attacks that allies of both campaigns have lobbed across party lines.

While the cameras were rolling, however, they spoke of bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle to solve the endemic gridlock that has gripped Washington.

The two met for a one-hour debate broadcast widely across central Illinois from the WILL-TV studios — it was the first of three debates over the next couple weeks as the candidates for Illinois' 13th Congressional district seat make their final push toward the Nov. 4 election. The candidates will meet for a second time on Tuesday at the University of Illinois-Springfield and finally on Oct. 30 at the Bone Student Center on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal.

As friends of their campaigns spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads against each candidate's opponent, talk of bipartisanship is often where the two candidates' similarities ended as they spent much of their time talking about the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and balancing the federal budget.

"I would be for repealing, I'd be for replacing, and frankly, I've helped lead the charge to try and make some fixes for the Affordable Care Act," Davis said.

He referenced a health-care based bill that he said would give incentive to businesses with fewer than 50 employees to hire more veterans. The bill stalled when it reached the Senate.

"It passed with only one 'no' vote on the House floor," he said. "You can't get more bipartisan than that."

Davis and Callis found some middle ground: They both want to protect provisions where health insurance-seekers cannot be denied for pre-existing medical conditions and that young people can stay on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. Both said they want to find ways to lower costs for families.

Otherwise, "we have to keep in place what works," Callis said. "14,000 people in our district, in the 13th Congressional district, have insurance now that they didn't before the ACA was passed. So to take Congressman Davis and his party's position to rip that away from 14,000 people isn't what we should do. We should see what works. What I would do is travel around the district and listen, have office hours, open it up."

Upon being pressed on what she thinks does not work, Callis said she would consider changes that would allow people to stay on their own insurance if they prefer it, and consider raising employee thresholds at which small businesses can receive subsidies.

Callis drew on her record as chief judge in Madison County: She took credit for leading the effort to establish a veterans' court, which she said has become a model for similar efforts around the country. She said she put together a bipartisan committee to draw up the program.

"I think I have a record of reaching across the aisle and getting things done," Callis said. "And that's exactly what I would do. I always had an open door policy as chief judge. Listening and then acting."

Candidates were asked for their thoughts on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. Callis said, "I just think it's time to raise the minimum wage." Davis said he would "support an increase in the minimum wage as long as it's paired with some offsets, some tax credits."

On the Islamic State and continuing with primarily airstrikes in the Middle East: "I don't profess to be a military strategist," Davis said, "And I don't have access to the intelligence that the president does, and that's why I have supported him. ... He has told us that this is a strategy that will succeed."

That being said, Davis wishes President Barack Obama had acted sooner.

A more interesting moment came after Davis referred to ISIS as the "most humane, radical terrorist organization that we have seen in my lifetime." The comment was nothing more than a slip of the tongue — Davis meant to say the group was inhumane.

Callis did not miss the opportunity to correct him.

"I think Mr. Davis, you meant inhumane, not humane, when you said 'humane,'" she said.

She did support airstrikes in the Middle East, she said, and would support ground operations if military leaders think it is the best approach.

"I think we need to join with non-jihadist Sunnis in Iraq, a multi-lateral approach, not a unilateral approach and have to listen to our military leaders," she said. "I know and believe that we have the best military in the world, but we should not go in there unilaterally and get bogged down."

On Social Security: "It's so important to a lot of people in this district," Callis said. She'd be against raising the retirement age, but "I think, in a bipartisan manner, we could create a commission and see how we can keep Social Security solvent."

Davis agreed.

"I hope we can have an adult conversation, a bipartisan conversation in Washington to do so," Davis said.

Suggestions from both on how to get Social Security to a more sustainable state were a bit more nebulous.

"We both agree, we don't want to see benefits cut at all for anyone who's on Social Security, and I'm going to continue to fight to make sure that our Social Security recipients get everything they were promised," Davis said. "We need to make sure that we have social security not just for this generation but for future generations."

On high-speed rail through Champaign: "I don't like to say anything's impossible when it comes to infrastructure," Davis said.

Is it a doable project? "I wouldn't absolutely say no," Callis said.

The candidates also took questions from viewers via Twitter: The final question of the night asked what each thought as their personal theme song. Callis went with Katy Perry's "Roar," and Davis said he is a fan of Creed's "Higher."

Thursday night's debate was hosted by Illinois Public Media in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, The News-Gazette, WCIA-TV 3/WCIX-TV 49 and the NAACP of Champaign County.

WCIA news anchor Jennifer Roscoe moderated, with questioning by Tom Kacich of The News-Gazette and Hannah Meisel, a reporter for WILL Radio.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2014 election

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Political Observer wrote on October 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Patrick Wade wrote:


A more interesting moment came after Davis referred to ISIS as the "most humane, radical terrorist organization that we have seen in my lifetime." The comment was nothing more than a slip of the tongue — Davis meant to say the group was inhumane.

Callis did not miss the opportunity to correct him.

"I think Mr. Davis, you meant inhumane, not humane, when you said 'humane,'" she said.

That's one way of spinning what happened.   Another person less protective of Rodney Davis might write a similar article, present the quote where Davis called ISIS the "most humane, radical terrorist organization..." , and then ask why the moderator and the two panelists just sat there in their seats, pretended nothing unusual had happened and didn't have any kind of followup to the extremely-bizarre thing Davis had just said!

Kudos to Ann Callis for setting the record straight, when the members of the news media were too timid and too embedded to dare to speak truth to power!

johnny wrote on October 22, 2014 at 8:10 am

I really, really hope that's sarcasm.