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Democrats Challenging Rodney Davis Face Off At Forum

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(L-R) 13th District Democratic congressional candidates Stefanie Smith and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, at a Feb. 11 candidate's debate in the Champaign City Council chamber.
(L-R) 13th District Democratic candidates Stefanie Smith and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan await the beginning of their candidate's forum at the Champaign City Council chamber Monday night.

CHAMPAIGN – A candidate’s forum in Champaign Monday night featured the two Democrats competing for the chance to challenge 13th District U.S. Representative Rodney Davis in November.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan lost to Davis by a less than one percent margin in 2018. The Springfield resident said she’s continuing her campaign on issues like healthcare and what she terms “common sense” gun legislation.

“So I am back in this race,” said Londrigan in her opening statement. “Because we have a mission. We have to finish what we started. We have a representative who continues to vote against us.”

Stefanie Smith has won the backing of Democratic Socialist groups in the 13th District. But the first-time candidate from Urbana accused the local Democratic organization in Champaign County of trying to censor her for pointing out what she called “bipartisan complicity” that supported Trump administration policies.

“They stripped everyone’s website links because of my anti-imperialist stance,” said Smith in her opening statement. “It’s an act of suppression. It’s an abuse of power that undermines trust.”

Smith and Londrigan agreed on some issues, like ending the Electoral College and supporting greater regulation of big tech companies like Facebook and Google. But they disagreed on the best way to provide healthcare coverage

Smith says access to a single-payer healthcare system is a human right. She described losing her mother to cancer because she couldn’t afford to see a doctor until it was too late.

Within six weeks, she was dead. Anything less than single payer is eugenics.”  

A single payer or “Medicare For All” system would replace private health insurance. But Betsy Dirksen Londrigan says that’s not what voters want.

“Look, I have a problem forcing people to give up insurance that they want to keep.”    

Londrigan supports the public option — allowing the government to offer an all-ages Medicare-like program as an alternative to private insurance.

Monday’s candidate’s forum was the second of two such events, sponsored by the local League of Women Voters and NAACP chapters and the News-Gazette. The forum, held before a full and sometimes raucous gallery at the Champaign City Council chamber, also featured candidates competing in Democratic primaries for two Champaign County Board seats: Dr. Charles Young (incumbent) and DeShawn Williams in District Six, and Mary King and Connie Dillard-Myers (appointed in October) in District Ten.  The League of Women voters, in accordance with its own rules, cancelled a third pairing, featuring District Nine candidates Cynthia Fears and Jennifer Straub. after Fears declined to participate.

Video of the forum from CGTV (the city of Champaign’s TV channel) is available at this link, while an earlier forum held January 30 may be viewed here.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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