13th District Dem candidates mostly in agreement at Normal forum

13th District Dem candidates mostly in agreement at Normal forum

NORMAL — The five candidates for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress in Illinois' 13th District agreed on nearly every issue during a candidate forum Tuesday night in Normal.

The event, sponsored by WGLT-FM and a number of other organizations, was the fifth featuring the candidates ahead of the March 20 primary election. Each of the five hopes to be selected to challenge three-term Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in November.

The forum, moderated by WGLT newsman Charlie Schlenker, attracted about 125 people at the 80-year-old Art Deco theater in downtown Normal.

Although the primary election is six weeks away, early voting starts later this week in some parts of the 14-county district, and Tuesday's forum may have been the candidates' last chance to sway some undecided voters.

They tried to do so in a variety of ways.

Bloomington physician David Gill offered his credentials as the most progressive of the candidates, endorsing a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health care, tuition-free higher education, abortion rights and legalized recreational marijuana, and he spoke against privatizing prisons, "locking people up for nonviolent offenses," and "the bloated military budget that is the sum of the next eight to 27 countries, depending on who's doing the counting."

Gill also noted that he ran against Davis in 2012 and narrowly lost in a three-way race.

Several times, Betsy Londrigan of Springfield noted that she is one of only two women in the race and emphasized the issue of health care reform.

"When it comes to health care, there is not another candidate who will take that fight to Rodney Davis and hold him accountable, like a mother who would have lost her son, who would have lost her home, who would have lost her livelihood if it wasn't for the protections we have in place," she said of a health scare her now college-age son faced about 10 years ago. "I will fight back on health care. I will fight back on the taxes that he wants to impose, just like I stood next to the grad students here at (Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan) when Rodney supported the bill that took away the tuition waivers from graduate students. This district is where I'm planted, it's where my home and my heart are. And, in 2018, this is a great year to have a woman on the ballot in Congress. So ladies, we've got to pull it together and make sure that we take one more step toward equality in Congress."

Erik Jones of Edwardsville, who has a slight lead in fundraising and cash on hand among the candidates, stressed his experience as a congressional staffer and as an Illinois assistant attorney general.

"We can't forget what we're facing when we go to Congress in early 2019," Jones said. "Donald Trump will still be president. He has someone in charge of the EPA who doesn't believe in climate change. He's put someone in charge of the Department of Education who doesn't believe in public education. He's dismantling the (Comsumer Financial Protection Bureau) and all the financial protections put in place after the financial crisis. And he's also called his own Department of Justice the deep state.

"The house is on fire in Washington, and we need firefighters. I have been fighting fires throughout my career. I have held an administration accountable before. I spent a number of years doing congressional investigations. I understand how that works, and I am ready to do that work on day one for the people in this district."

Jon Ebel of Urbana, an associate professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois, used humor in part of his presentation.

"I think you should vote for me because I am the only ballet dancing, marathon running, religion professor and veteran in this race," he said to laughter, "and that matters."

He said he dances in order to spend time with his daughters. Running marathons, he said, proves that he is determined, disciplined and has a tolerance for pain.

"I'm a religion professor. Now look around the world, whether it's in our domestic sphere or globally, look me in the eye and tell that me that religion does not matter in domestic policy or in foreign policy. I think we need more who have that kind of training in our government than less. I'm also a veteran. I'm the one person on this stage who knows what foreign policy feels like."

Angel Sides of Springfield, a teacher who entered the race at virtually the last minute in December and has reported no campaign contributions or expenditures, had the most vague of messages at Tuesday's forum.

"I feel independent media is important because we have a corporate, censored media that bamboozles the public into voting against their own best interests and that is a complete subversion of our political system by major contributors. An oligarchy is what Jimmy Carter calls it. I think we also need to get big money out of our elections," she said. "The Republican Party is the biggest corporate party, but if we're not in denial, we also need to transform the Democratic Party and get the big money out of the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee)."

Davis is unopposed for the Republican nomination in the 13th District, which extends from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Collinsville and Edwardsville on the southwest.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):election 2018