News Local/State

Davis & Callis Disagree & Sometimes Agree In Debate


13th District Republican Congressman Rodney Davis and Democratic challenger Ann Callis promoted themselves as problem-solvers ready to reach across party lines, during their broadcast debate Thursday night at the WILL-TV studio in Urbana.

Davis and Callis told the panel (Tom Kacich of the News-Gazette, Hannah Meisel of Illinois Public Media with moderator Jennifer Roscue from WCIA-TV) that they've both worked in non-partisan ways to get things done. They concurred on some issues, like forming a bipartisan commission for Social Security reform. Davis says his priority is making sure Americans who are now 55 or older do not see any cuts in future benefits. Callis says she opposes raising the Social Security eligibility age and "chain cpi", or cutting cost-of-living increases in benefits by tying them to a more slow-growing Consumer Price Index.

Davis and Callis both say they're committed to controlling student loan debt. But Davis says he also talks to college and university officials in his district about controlling the cost of a college education.

The two candidates both back the president's bombing raids against ISIS and both want other nations to play a big role if ground troops are called in.

Immigration Reform

On immigration reform, Callis responded to a tweet from an undocumented immigrant college student, and noted what she was told during a previous visit to the University of Illinois.

“And touring Research Park, and talking to the executives at Yahoo there, their number one, their number one issue was comprehensive immigration reform", said Callis.

Meanwhile, Davis says the real immigration challenge isn’t securing the southern border, but fixing a broken visa system that results in international students overstaying their visas, when they should be welcomed for their training in engineering, and science.

"And I find it wrong that we don’t have a system in place that will then allow them to be employed here in America", said Davis. "We tell them to come get educated here, and then tell them to go back and compete against us.”

Davis dismissed Callis’ call for House passage of the immigration reform bill passed last year in the Senate. But he said visa reform was something that the two parties could work on together.

Affordable Care Act

When asked about the Affordable Care Act, Davis and Callis both said they want to preserve the popular parts of the law, while fixing area that need improvement. But Callis made it clear he supported the law, while Davis says he would prefer to "repeal and replace" it.

Callis said she supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. Davis says he could support a minimum wage increase, if paired with financial offsets such as tax credits. Davis says he wants to work on improving the economy and promoting buisness growth, so that more workers can advance to higher-paying jobs.

Response to Attack Ads

But while Davis and Callis stuck to the issues during their one-hour debate, they used their post-debate news conferences to criticize attack ads that paint them each as out-of-touch big-spenders.

The ads accuse Davis of spending 40-thousand dollars on meals at steakhouses for donors and lobbyists, and enjoying a congressional gym and lifetime healthcare while voting to shut down the government and cut Medicare.

"I have not bought a single steak, let alone expensed a single piece of food and drink on the taxpayers’ dime", said Davis. "I have not flown first class on the taxpayers’ dime or my dime, ever."

Meanwhile, other ads attack Callis for owning several out-of-state homes, while renting the one in her district --- and even listing her home address as Missouri on some real estate papers while serving as an Illinois judge. Callis says that as a judge, she lived and raised her children in Troy, in her downstate Illinois judicial district.

"My son was football captain and quarterback of Triad High School" (in Troy), said Callis. "If what he’s saying is true --- and he led his team to conference championship --- their team would be stripped of that title. What he accused me of doing is violating my ethical code and really violating the law."

Callis calls the ads against her “vicious lies and personal attacks”. Davis says the ads against him obscure the fact that he and Callis actually agreed on some issues during their debate. Neither said that their negative ads against the other would stop.

The Davis-Callis debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County and the Champaign County NAACP, along with Illinois Public Media and WCIA/WCIX-TV.

WILL AM & FM will also air another live debate featuring the two candidates, on Tuesday, October 21st at 7 PM. AARP and Springfield public radio staiton WUIS-FM are co-sponsoring that debate, which will be broadcast from Springfield.