A family physician from Douglas County said he’s running for Congress because of a “failure of leadership” he sees in Washington.
Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ellington lives in Camargo, with his medical practice in Arthur. He’s also on the faculty of the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, and holds a law license.
Ellington said he would have some “big shoes to fill” if he’s elected to succeed incumbent U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, who is stepping down after 12 terms. At the same time, he said he would bring a different perspective to the office.
“I think that my perspective as a family physician, and as a licensed attorney, I think probably my focus will be a little different than his,” said Ellington, who received degrees in both law and medicine from Southern Illinois University.
Ellington says the partisan divide in American politics is a “huge problem,” but that “real leaders build bridges”.
“I would be willing to work with anybody who in good faith wants to sit down and work to solve problems for this country,” said Ellington. “Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, that doesn’t matter. What matters to me are the people of the 15th district and people in this country, and how can we best serve them.”
On the topic of healthcare, Ellington sets himself apart from the Democratic presidential hopefuls, who he said have been promoting either “Medicare for all” or a slow version of it. At the same time, Ellington does not favor a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (although he called it a “fiasco”), but an overhaul. He said more spending under the law should focus on getting patients access to a primary care physician.
“What study after study has shown is that if somebody has access to a primary care doctor, that is a family physician, who they know over time, what will happen is they’ll be healthier, they live longer, and they’ll cost the system less money,” said Ellington. “And so, I think any health care system has to be based upon primary care and put a focus on the role of family physicians, internal medicine, doctors, pediatricians, those sorts of physicians.”
Ellington said the only two to three percent of spending under Affordable Care Act goes towards primary care physicians, even though such physicians provide about half of the medical care. He said that should change, with more funding also being earmarked for rural areas.
Ellington supports President Trump’s approach to trade disputes, including his handling of the trade dispute with China. He said the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration against Chinese imports were a necessary move, in order to reach the goal of open trade and open markets.
“The farmers I have talked to have felt that the tariffs have not been as harmful as they’ve been portrayed to be,” said Ellington. As an illustration, he pointed to the “Long Depression” of the 1890’s.
“And the only country that had economic growth during that period of time was Great Britain, and they were the only country that did not have trade barriers,” said Ellington. “And so I think that I will defer to the President on this issue. I think he understands things that maybe the rest of us don’t.”
Ellington wants to make permanent the individual and pass-through tax cuts that were signed into law in 2017 (the corporate tax cuts passed at the same time are already permanent). At the same time, he supports a balanced budget amendment, “because history has shown us that politicians just don’t have the will to be able to make the hard choices to bring our budget into balance.” When asked where spending could be cut to achieve a balanced budget, Ellington gives corporate welfare as one example.
“A lot of money is going to help bail out banks, help fund large corporations,” said Ellington, “and if you look at the amount of money that we spend on that, that’s vastly greater than the amount of money we spend on helping poor people afford food. And I think that’d be one area where I’d start.”
While Ellington credits President Trump with helping to create a stronger economy, he says parts of the 15th District are not doing as well as the rest of the country. Ellington says one way to help the district is to support its coal industry.
“The Wildcat Mine in Southern Illinois shut down, leaving 200 people out of work,” said Ellington, referring to the closure of Peabody Coal’s Wildcat Hills Underground Mine near Equality in Saline County last year. “The downstream impact of that’s going to be much greater than 200 people.”
Ellington said one way to help the coal industry is by supporting research into carbon capture and storage technology, with projects such as FutureGen. That federal project, intended to open a coal-fired power plant using carbon capture technology to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, was proposed twice for Illinois, before being cancelled by the federal government in 2008, citing rising costs. Ellington thinks research like FutureGen still has potential.
“That opportunity, I believe, still exists,” said Ellington. “That’s one way I think we can help revitalize the coal industry, yet protect the environment at the same time.”
Ellington said he supports the Trump administration’s efforts to maintain a secure border with Mexico, but believes a long-term solution needs to be more than a border wall. He supports what many have called a Marshall Plan for Latin America, meant to improve conditions in Latin America so that fewer people who live there will feel compelled to seek asylum in the U.S.
“I think in the long term, this is a solution, that will pay off vastly, both for the United States and for Latin America, both economically and with regard to our national security,” said Ellington.
Besides Ellington, the Republican candidates in the March 17 primary for Illinois’ 15th District congressional seat are Altamont resident and local school board vice-president Kerry Wolff, Mary Miller of Oakland in Coles County (wife of State Rep. Chris Miller) and Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan. The Democratic candidates are Salem pharmacist and city council member Craig Morton, high school teacher John W. Hursey Jr. of Collinsville, 2018 Democratic nominee Kevin Gaither of Charleston, and Coles County public defender and Mattoon school board member Erika Weaver. They’re competing to succeed Republican incumbent John Shimkus of Collinsville, who is retiring from Congress after twelve terms in office.