News Local/State

Davis & Dirksen Londrigan Argue Gun Control, Healthcare In Urbana Debate

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) and challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D-Springfield) at their debate in the WILL-TV studios in Urbana. Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

A broadcast debate in Urbana between the candidates for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District seat covered issues that ranged from healthcare to preventing gun violence.

The debate was held in the WILL-TV studios on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. It aired live Thursday night on WILL AM and FM Radio and Springfield’s NPR Illinois (WUIS). It will be repeated Monday night at 8 PM on WILL-TV.

Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis defended his support of Republican healthcare legislation at  the debate held in the WILL studios in Urbana, and moderated by "The 21st" host Niala Boodhoo. And Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan continued her charge that the bill Davis supported would deny coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

In answer to a question about Dirksen Londrigan’s support for Medicare expansion, Davis changed the subject to the charge made in attack ads that a GOP healthcare bill he voted for last year would have quote “gutted protections for pre-existing conditions”. Davis said he would never support a bill that did that, because his wife is a cancer survivor with a genetic predisposition to cancer that could appear in his children.

“That’s why I stand here and stand everywhere to say, don’t believe the lies that’ I’m trying to take away preexisting condition coverage,” said Davis.

Dirksen Londrigan said while the Republican bill would not allow outright denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, it could allow rate hikes that many could not afford.

On the issue of gun violence, Dirksen Londrigan called for federal universal background checks on gun buyers. That proposal would expand the current background checks to include people buying from private gun sellers.

“And we can keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders and domestic abusers and those who are dangerously mentally ill,” said Dirksen Londrigan. “These are things that we can do, if the people at the table have the political will to do it.”

Dirksen Londrigan said she comes from a family of gun owners, and described herself as a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. She criticized Davis for taking campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. Davis replied he was not only a recipient of NRA contributions, but an NRA member.

The Taylorville Republican also noted the danger he was in last year, when a gunman from Belleville, Illinois, fired on a GOP Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was seriously wounded in the shooting. But Davis says they were saved by “good guys with guns” ---- officers from the Capitol and Alexandria Police Department.

Davis said that incident “hardened” his feelings about gun rights and the 2nd  Amendment. And he questioned proposals to place more restrictions on gun sales.

“Criminals don’t care if they fill out the correct form for a FOID card,” said Davis. “They don’t care if they legally purchase a firearm.”

Davis said he supports other ways of preventing gun violence, like more school safety programs and more support for mental health treatment.

The two candidates also answered questions from a panel of reporters and others sent in by the public. Topics included the cost of higher education, the impact of the tax relief bill, the effect on agriculture of the US trade war with China, what to do about climate change and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

US Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) is seeking his 4th term in Congress. Springfield native Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is making her first run for Congress.