In Illinois 13th District, GOP Incumbent Faces Challenge From First-Time Candidate

Sep 11, 2018
Originally published on September 11, 2018 3:58 pm

The 2018 midterms are less than two months away, and one of the congressional races to watch is in central Illinois.

The state’s 13th Congressional District, which represents parts of the capital, Springfield, is represented by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis since new district lines went into effect in 2012.

But Davis is facing a genuine challenge this year from a first-time candidate. Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is making health care one of her central issues.

“I don’t want anyone to lose someone they love because they can’t get to a doctor,” she says. “I believe we all deserve access to quality, affordable health care.”

Londrigan is so passionate about health care because of her son. He became critically ill after a tick bite, and she says his life was saved because her family had good health care.

That’s why she’s running to unseat Davis, who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

“We promised the American people we would do whatever necessary to fix our broken health care system, and this bill is just the start,” he said. “You will continue to see the House pass legislation that focuses on lowering costs and providing better options for all Americans.”

This race is being contested in a state economy that is much better off than it was a decade ago. The unemployment rate in Illinois was just 4.2 percent in July compared with 11 percent back in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Davis wants to make the race about the economy, emphasizing the Trump administration’s tax cuts. He is facing tough questions about the Trump tariffs, which are negatively affecting agriculture in Illinois.

President Trump is also a difficult issue for Davis. He said he couldn’t support Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tape, but he won’t disclose who he voted for in 2016. He says the voting booth is private.

The lines of the 13th district were drawn by Democrats to make it easier for their candidate to win. It includes several college towns sprinkled across the broad rural stretches of Illinois. But so far, that hasn’t resulted in a Democratic win. President Trump carried the district in 2016.

For a long time, Illinois hasn’t been a battleground state like Ohio in presidential elections. It’s gone for a Democrat in every election since 1992.

But the fact that this congressional race is seen as competitive is significant, says Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“It certainly reflects … the conflict between rural areas, between college towns, between urban areas, declining manufacturing, the importance of health care, I mean, all the issues we talk about nationally,” he says.

Political columnist Bernie Schoenburg is watching this race closely, and he says the result could show how the midterms will go overall.

“I believe that if Betsy Londrigan wins … it will indicate that it was a very good Democratic year,” he says.

Another important factor in this race — turnout driven by the top of the ticket.

Multimillionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner is facing a strong challenge from billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker got a boost last week from Illinois’ own former President Barack Obama, who held his first campaign style event of the year in this district.

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