URBANA – Four Republican candidates hoping to represent the 13th Congressional district faced off on Thursday night. They echoed similar concerns about the Biden presidency and reflected on an unrecognizable America, a “Twilight Zone,” as Terry Martin, a former political journalist, remarked.
Illinois Public Media sponsored the debate ahead of the June 28th primary.
Jesse Reising, a former federal prosecutor, who was recently endorsed by Trump-era housing secretary Ben Carson, said the country needs “America First principles.” The rest of the candidates agreed upon that language and ideology, except for Matt Hausman, an aerospace engineer and former teacher.
Hausman strayed from the pack, pushing for more centrist solutions and bipartisanship in such divisive times. He said after the debate that Republican Congressman Rodney Davis has served as an influence for his campaign.
Regan Deering, a community organizer and entrepreneur, who was endorsed by the late Congressman Tim Johnson, said she’s afraid for the future of her children because of President Biden’s leadership and the state’s more liberal policies, which she believes have caused inflation.
Terry Martin recommended an increase in domestic oil production to boost the economy and quell inflation.
However, Hausman said climate change is a real issue that needs to be taken into account when thinking about inflation and agriculture.
“This is why we need better energy policies. We need an ‘all of the above’ energy solution,” Hausman said. “The farm bill is coming up and that’s going to be big for our 13th district. Part of that with the farm bill, a big portion of that, is nutrition programs.”
Deering supports the farm bill, increased rural broadband access and better infrastructure. Reising, a former federal prosecutor, who said his great-grandfather was a tenant farmer, spoke about robust crop insurance and lifting the summertime ban on E15 gasoline (as Biden did recently).
Hausman only candidate to support some gun control measures
As President Biden delivered a rare evening address on Thursday night, calling for an assault weapons ban and new red flag laws, Hausman was the only candidate to push for anti-gun violence legislation.
“We as Republicans need to admit that there is a problem with guns being too easily accessible for dangerous hands,” he said. “I do support things like raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms, red flag laws, background checks.”
Reising said the recent violence isn’t about guns.
“In Texas, actually, 18-year-olds have been able to buy these types of weapons for many many decades, so this corresponding increase in mass shootings has nothing to do with the age at which individuals have been able to purchase firearms,” Reising said.
Deering agreed – saying she supports “common sense legislation,” like gun safety, to address this issue.
The Republican competitors agreed that mental health is what needs to be tackled. None provided a substantial explanation as to what that means, or what that would look like.
Martin described the U.S. as a “system of systems” and argued that laws aren’t enough to address gun violence. “We can pass a law on gun control, [but] we have to know that’s not going to be the solution,” he said.
The debate was hosted by Illinois Public Media. You can see the entire event on our YouTube channel.