Betsy Dirksen Londrigan lost to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis by 0.8% of the vote in the 2018 election. Now, the Springfield Democrat is making a second run in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, starting with a bid for her party’s nomination.
Londrigan’s message remains the same, with a focus on healthcare. She opened her interview with Illinois Newsroom by describing her son’s successful treatment for a rare and life-threatening illness at the age of twelve.
“And I know that if we had also not had the insurance coming out of that experience that our family would have gone bankrupt,” said Londrigan. “And so, for me making sure that people in Central Illinois have access to quality, affordable health care, is my primary motivator and an overarching issue in this race.”
(Rep. Davis also cites a family member’s health emergency, namely his wife’s battle with colon cancer, in describing his commitment to expanding Americans’ access to health care.)
Londrigan has been labeled a socialist by Republicans, who say she supports a “Medicare For All” or “single payer” approach to healthcare. (Londrigan’s Democratic primary opponent, Stefanie Smith, supports the public option idea.) But Londrigan said she would not support a healthcare plan that forces people off private insurance that they want to keep. Instead, she says she wants to encourage lower prices for insurance and prescription medicines.
“I think one way that we can lower their out of pocket costs and premiums is to offer Medicare as a public option,” said Londrigan, “beginning in our rural communities and with small businesses. Because, you know, rural communities have lost providers. And this would enter competition onto the market and help lower those costs.”
Londrigan says she also supports the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which the House passed in December, but which Davis voted against, calling it a step towards a socialist healthcare system. That measure would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.
When asked about how Democrats and Republicans can bridge a widening partisan divide to work together on important issues, Londrigan said members of Congress need to listen to constituents in their home districts. She used that point to emphasize a main campaign talking point: her pledge to not take any “corporate PAC money”, or campaign contributions from political action committees funded by large corporations. Londrigan has accused Rep. Rodney Davis of taking “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from PACs funded by drug and insurance companies.
“I want to make sure that when I go to Congress, people here in Central Illinois, now, I am going to represent them, not corporations and not special interests,” said Londrigan.
The Davis campaign has defended its acceptance of corporate PAC money, and has said Londrigan’s acceptance of money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee means she is accepting funding they have received from corporate PACs.
Londrigan says she wants to help farmers in the 13th District on trade issues.
“And so making sure that moving forward that we take our farmers into consideration with any trade deals and the repercussions that they face is really important,” said Londrigan, “because they are the linchpin of our circle of life here in Central Illinois.”
Londrigan says she also endorses the Paris climate accord, and opposes President Trump’s plans to withdraw from the agreement.
“You don’t need to look past Central Illinois to see the effects of climate change,” said Londrigan. “We’ve had historic flooding, that is affecting our bottom line right here in our state.”
Londrigan said the nation’s low unemployment rate needs to be accompanied by better paying jobs. She supports the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a measure in Congress meant to strengthen labor unions, and is a critic of the tax cuts enacted in 2017.
“That money (saved by corporations through the tax cuts) went to corporate buybacks and dividends and shareholders, not to creating a better economy for the middle class,” said Londrigan.
Londrigan is running against Stefanie Smith of Urbana for the Democratic nomination in the March 17 primary for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis is running for re-nomination unopposed.
Jim Meadows is senior reporter for Illinois Newsroom. He has worked for WILL since 2000. Follow him at @WILLJimMeadows.