This is not the way the race in the 13th Congressional District was supposed to end.
A year ago it appeared that the contest in the newly drawn congressional district, which covers Champaign-Urbana and vast areas of central Illinois southwest to Edwardsville, would feature two former state representatives — U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, and Jay Hoffman, a onetime Democratic floor leader in the Illinois House from Collinsville.
Both have dropped out of the race, Hoffman leaving long before the March 20 primary election and Johnson shortly after it.
They've been replaced by three candidates, none of whom has won an election before:
— Republican Rodney Davis, who was appointed the candidate by GOP county chairmen in the district.
— Democrat David Gill, who defeated the party-backed candidate by 163 votes.
— And independent John Hartman, who had to collect more than 5,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
The campaign thus far has been marked by negative television ads, more than $3.5 million in spending by super PACs and other outside groups, and a scarcity of debates among the candidates. Two of the candidates — Davis and Gill — finally had their first face-to-face public meeting last week at Illinois State University; Hartman wasn't invited.
But all three candidates did complete candidate questionnaires from The News-Gazette. Those responses, as well as remarks made at last week's debate, are the basis for these position statements on various issues.
Davis: "Obamacare must not only be repealed, but also replaced with a comprehensive plan that keeps the vital patient-doctor relationship in place and encourages innovative solutions to address our nation's health care needs," he said.
Any new program, he said, should include tort reform, insurance pools that cross state lines, coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and a provision allowing children to stay on a parent's insurance until age 26.
Gill: Says he would not have voted for Obamacare but supports it now, although he prefers "a program that's still to be devised."
His program, he said, would be similar to Medicare for everyone.
"It's a tax-based program that doesn't involve an increase in people's taxes; in fact, it involves a decrease in the effective surtax they pay today," Gill said. "Whether they know it or not, they're throwing 20 to 40 percent of their health care budget away to fund private health insurance, their profiteering and their marketing. It's money that they ought to have back in their pockets."
Hartman: "Given today's gridlock, if we repeal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we will probably end up with nothing, and that would be a setback to the estimated 32 million people who will gain coverage under it. Not surprisingly, the facts tell us that Americans without health insurance are sicker and die younger than those of us with health insurance. So I would not vote for its outright appeal, but would seek to improve its flaws," Hartman said.
Like Gill, he points to Medicare as an efficient, cost-effective program.
"For example, we know that Medicare's administrative overhead draws 3.6 cents from every health care dollar it processes. The Canadian system's administrative overhead draws less than 2 cents. The private insurers in the U.S. draw out 11.7 cents per dollar," he said. "The New England Journal of Medicine reported a few years back that our entangled bureaucracy cost the average American $1,059 per year, compared to $307 for the single-payer system in Canada."
Davis: "We must cut federal spending and live within the means of our current annual federal revenue. I do not support raising taxes to achieve a balanced budget and I do not believe we have a 'revenue problem' as some have espoused. We must enact policies which encourage private job creation to stimulate the economy. A robust economy, in combination with a restrained federal budget, will put us on the path to balancing our books and starting to pay down our national debt."
Gill: "I'm someone who believes that we need spending cuts and revenue increases, with those revenue increases coming in the form of having the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share once again in this country. And making sure that corporations pay their fair share, rather than having a large number of corporations that currently pay zero or even a negative effective tax rate."
"I think certainly we ought to have spending cuts as well. It's a matter of priorities. We have a priorities problem in this country. I think that the defense budget need not be so bloated as it is. I'm somebody who thinks we ought to be getting out of Afghanistan now, rather than somewhere down the road. I'm someone who has long said that we ought not be giving subsidies to the fossil fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil. It's difficult to make that kind of change when you've got a Congress that has a lot of guys who take checks from Exxon-Mobil."
Hartman: "The polarization of the two major parties and the hesitancy of party members to break with their perceived party orthodoxy have kept us from making progress. As an independent, I do not have this problem, and there are multiple budget plans that I could support, and these happen to be the plans that offer the best chances of passage. Though I can provide constructive criticism of the plans, taken in total, I would support the Simpson-Bowles plan, the Domenici-Rivlin plan, and the Senate's Gang of Six outline plan. The deficiencies in these plans are not nearly as bad as the danger of ever larger deficits. The Simpson-Bowles commission estimates that backdoor spending in the tax code costs us $1 trillion per year, and most of us agree this is the best, and easiest, place to start.
"The percentage of deficit reduction coming from spending cuts and tax revenues vary somewhat between the plans. It seems reasonable to me that spending cuts could account for 55 percent of deficit reduction and tax increases 45 percent, but I am willing to support plans that vary from this significantly because I realize compromise is needed."
Davis:"While Illinois and the 13th District rely greatly on grain, machinery and transportation exports to China, we must defend the economic interests of the United States, especially when dealing with China. I'm supportive of engaging China on trade policies which allow our businesses to flourish, but we must pay close attention to their currency as it continues to appreciate."
Gill: "We need to be forceful and be strong in terms of standing up against China when they are manipulating their currency. I think we need to ask ourselves why they should continue to have Most Favored Nation status when they are manipulating their currency. On the other hand, I think there are some wonderful partnerships to be developed within China in terms of our ability to market our products overseas, when you make sure they are not manipulating their currency and they are acting as a fair trading partner."
Hartman: "The exchange of ideas in the information age and a belief in the appeal of democracy as a natural force inherent to humanity should give us reason to think that China will move toward a more democratic society. We know that democracy has its advocates in China today. There may well be bumps coming in our relationship, but we need to keep a long-term perspective and use wisdom to recognize that it could scarcely be in our interests to enter any war with China."
Davis: We must first continue to do to more to secure our borders to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. Increased border patrols, finishing border fences and continuing our vigilance through enforcement are keys to controlling the number of illegal immigrants coming to the United States. We must ensure employers are capable of quickly and accurately verifying the eligibility of those who they are hiring. We also must ensure that government benefits do not serve as an enticement for immigrants to illegally enter the United States.
"Any path to citizenship for those here illegally must not be a path which places them before others who are going through the process legally."
Gill: "The last time we reviewed this in any comprehensive sort of way was in the mid-1980s under President Reagan. I tip my cap to him for his ability to look at the big picture and address the wide variety of items that are needed when you talk about this. The opposition has been very intransigent in stating that they won't do anything other than securing our borders. That's a necessary part of it, but it's also important to state that we will deal effectively with the businesses that hire the undocumented workers and I think that realistically we can't deport 12 million people. I think you have to acknowledge that and develop some process where they get to the back of the line and pay whatever fine. I'm not talking about criminals, people who have committed a crime while here. Those people should be deported, but I think there should be some pathway to citizenship, particularly for the young people."
Hartman: "We need to give an objective group of economists the task of determining the employment needs of our economy, from the high-tech employees integral to our software giants to the agricultural employees helping to provide our fruits and vegetables. We should then base the number of immigrants on our economic needs along with a due respect for our nation's identity and heritage of welcoming others.
"Once our immigration targets are set, we need to enforce the rule of law on both employers and employees. It behooves us all to be a nation that respects the law, and we have had inexcusably lax enforcement of our existing immigration laws. Once the new targets are set, the law should be enforced vigorously, and employers as well as illegal immigrants should pay a stiff price for transgressions, including prison terms for employers or deportation for illegally entering."
Davis:"Many factors contribute to changes in climate, both man-made and natural. Regardless of your views on global warming, we should all agree that reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cutting air pollution without doing economic harm to our citizens will benefit our national security, environment and public health."
Gill: "Global climate change is occurring and we ignore it at great risk to our grandchildren and their children. I believe that we should invest ourselves as fully as possible in reducing our carbon footprint and involving ourselves in the alternative energy sources that I mentioned earlier. It's not something that can be put off any longer. We've already crossed that mark where irreversible change is starting to take place. The costs associated with ignoring it dwarf any cost in facing up to it now."
Hartman:"If our leading scientific institutions are telling us that there is likely to be harm to others from our actions, we need to change course. We need to change our behavior to act as if others mattered.
"The most market-friendly manner that meets our responsibilities is a cap-and-trade system. Cap and trade has the ability to work for climate-changing emissions just as it did successfully with acid rain in the northeast U.S. However, climate change is a global problem, and while we need to implement policies ourselves as the world's leading nation, we need to also do everything within our powers to convince others of the facts of climate change and the moral obligations springing from them."
Davis:"I am pro-life but recognize the exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother. I do not believe that taxpayer dollars should be used to finance abortions, outside of rape, incest or life of the mother."
Gill:"I am a pro-choice candidate. I think that a woman's body is hers to make decisions with regards to. It's her body and her health and that should be respected. The Hyde Amendment has been in place since the mid-1970s and to be frank, traveling the district and talking with thousands of people, I'm not hearing anybody calling for the Hyde Amendment to be done away with. It's not my intention to go to Washington and work toward doing away with the Hyde Amendment."
Hartman: "My position on abortion is that the government should be as small as possible, and we should have confidence in the people to use their conscience to do what is best. I support Roe v. Wade. I am not yet decided on whether or not to support the so-called Hyde Amendment."
Davis: "I would support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman."
Gill: Said he would oppose the amendment.
Hartman:"We do not need a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman."