In the local race for Congress, The News-Gazette endorses Republican Rodney Davis.
The race for election to Illinois' new 13th Congressional District wasn't supposed to be this way.
Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana campaigned for months before winning the March primary. Three months later, Johnson announced that he was withdrawing his name from the GOP ballot and retiring from politics, a surprising and bizarre move that prompted a candidate search by the district's Republican Party chairmen and the eventual slating of Rodney Davis of Taylorville to fill Johnson's empty ballot spot.
On the Democratic side, party bigwigs like U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin tried to persuade his party's voters to nominate Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten. Durbin et al argued Goetten would be a stronger general election candidate than Dr. David Gill, a three-time loser in his biennial efforts to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. But a narrow majority of Democratic primary voters nominated Gill.
So it's Davis, a 42-year-old aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville, competing against Gill, a 52-year-old physician from Bloomington, in a race marred by each side's use of negative television advertising. Frankly, if what each candidate said and insinuated about the other was true, neither would be trustworthy enough to be a jail trusty.
Independent John Hartman of Edwardsville also is running. Without funds, party backing or much popular support, he's mostly a distraction in a race that could help decide whether Republicans or Democrats will win a U.S. House majority.
The News-Gazette endorses Davis because, in our opinion, his conservative views are more in sync with the sprawling district that runs from Urbana to the Missouri border.
That's not to say that Gill is not a credible spokesman for his cause or an honest and decent man, just that his near-constant reliance on big government to solve problems is neither affordable nor effective.
Exhibit A for this proposition is President Obama's Affordable Care Act, known popularly as Obamacare.
It represents the largest and most expensive government intervention into social welfare since President Johnson's Great Society programs that were aimed at (but failed miserably in) ending poverty.
Both Davis and Gill are unhappy with Obamacare. Davis supports repeal because he views it as a hyper-expensive intrusion into the medical delivery system and doctor/patient relations that will not do what Obama claims, resulting in the rationing of care overseen by unaccountable bureaucrats.
Gill can live with Obamacare for now, but criticizes it as too modest. He wants to put every American on Medicare and abolish private insurance companies, which he claims, incredibly, can be done without "an increase in people's taxes."
There are numerous flaws in this approach, the biggest being that the current Medicare program is headed toward bankruptcy. But Gill has an almost religious belief that government-run programs offer the solution to most, if not all, problems.
Davis and Gill disagree on social programs, notably gay marriage and abortion. Gill supports both, and Davis opposes them. But those social issues are a practical irrelevancy. Abortion is a federally guaranteed constitutional right, and states are addressing same-sex marriage. The chances of passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage are less than zero.
Taxes and spending are the important areas of disagreement between Gill and Davis, and on these topics the two men follow the positions of their presidential candidates.
President Obama is promising to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" to rein in his trillion-dollar annual budget deficits, and Gill had adopted the same language. But even if the taxes that Gill and Obama propose were enacted, they wouldn't raise enough revenue to significantly decrease the deficit. The real money is in the middle class (defined as incomes of $250,000 and under), and the reason is that there are far more of them to tax.
On free trade and foreign policy, Gill embraces an isolationist approach, bringing troops home, tearing up trade agreements and slashing defense spending. Davis seems to understand that this country is a world power that cannot run and hide if it's to maintain influence abroad.
We do not begrudge the candidates the petty hypocrisies they have displayed in this campaign. Running for office makes fibbers and fudgers of all who take up that challenge.
Gill denounces corporate PAC money on one hand while nonetheless relying on it to win the election. Davis insists that government has to learn to live within its means but talks incessantly about maintaining entitlement programs that are exploding in costs.
The best way to judge this race is to get a sense of the candidates. Gill, as one of his local supporters wrote, is a "full-throated liberal," with all that entails. If that's what people want, he's the man. But the 14 counties of the new 13th District do not constitute a "full-throated liberal" district, like, say, Berkeley, Calif. It's a moderately conservative district, and Davis is a better fit to serve as its representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.