URBANA – Democratic candidates, Nikki Budzinski, a former aide to President Joe Biden and Governor J.B. Pritzker and David Palmer, a businessman and former basketball player, met last Thursday for an Illinois Public Media-sponsored debate. They largely agreed on the issues plaguing Americans but differed in a few key areas.
After the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Texas, Palmer and Budzinski said they support universal background checks on gun purchases and red flag laws, which allow guns to be taken from people at risk of harming themselves or others.
Palmer, a gun owner, is also advocating for responsible gun ownership. “You know in this state we have really good gun laws. I’m a gun owner. I believe in responsible gun ownership. But that’s just not really the case in a lot of places,” he said.
While Palmer is strongly in favor of an assault weapons ban, in a post-debate news conference, Budzinski didn’t answer directly about her position on that.
“I support universal background checks, I support red flag laws,” Budzinski said. “I think those are things that haven’t yet been accomplished, and I think in Congress those are the things I would be very focused on.”
A federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004, but President Joe Biden is seeking to reenact this measure.
Budzinski and Palmer agreed on funding and supporting mental health institutions, but said it shouldn’t be an excuse to not deal with gun violence itself.
Agriculture and climate change
Illinois is the second-largest corn producer in the nation, and Budzinski supports the year-round production of E-15, which is 15% ethanol and 85% regular gasoline. The summertime ban on E-15 has already been lifted by President Biden to lower gas prices.
Budzinski said: “One of the things I very much support is a year-round E-15 blend, which I think does a couple of things. I think, one, it provides relief at the gas pump and it provides support to our family farmers in ethanol.”
Palmer pointed out the environmental risk of ethanol, including its carbon footprint and creation of ground-level smog. He instead proposed a gas tax holiday, which proponents argue would slightly decrease gas prices.
“We do have to do things that make [farmers] them feel more equitable, something like the gas tax holiday, which is going to be important here.” Palmer stated.
They’re equally afraid of leaving working-class people in Illinois behind in a nationwide transition to a greener economy.
The war in Ukraine and Russia
As the war rages on in Ukraine, the U.S. will send another aid package to the country – this time $700 million in military support.
Budzinski called Russian president Vladimir Putin a “thug.” And while both candidates expressed firm support for the Ukrainian people, Palmer disagreed on how to best approach the situation. “I think I do champion the sentiments as well that we do have to stand up to Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime, but I think we’re spending too much money,” Palmer said. “I think we have too many crisis-level things going on right now in our country.”
Top campaign priorities
As inflation and wage stagnation wreak havoc on U.S. consumers, Budzinski said it’s the main focus of her campaign. She sees it as stemming from COVID-19, an overreliance on the global economy, and the erosion of the middle class.
Budzinski indicated her support for President Biden’s child tax credit, among other policy proposals. “When I get to Congress, I’m going to fight to help middle-class families keep more of what they earn. And what I mean by that is lowering the cost of prescription drugs, it’s capping the cost of insulin, it’s extending the child tax credit,” she said.
Palmer said safety is the most important issue, and he brought up the intersection between gun violence, economic inequality, and an underfunded education system.
The Democratic debate in the 13th Congressional District was hosted by Illinois Public Media and co-sponsored by WAND News and the League of Women Voters of Champaign County. You can see the entire event on our YouTube channel.