News Local/State

Incumbent Davis, Challenger Wicklund Debate In Urbana

Democrat Mark Wicklund and incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Davis debate one another Thursday at the WILL-TV studios.

Democrat Mark Wicklund and incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Davis debate one another Thursday at the WILL-TV studios. Mike Thomas/Illinois Public Media

Incumbent 13th District Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville and his Democratic challenger, Mark Wicklund of Decatur, found a few areas where they had simliar messages in their first debate Thursday night before an audience in the WILL-TV studio. But much of the hour was also dedicated to issues like the Affordable Care Act, and the accomplishments of Congress under the Obama administration.

The two kept their tone civil, and only briefly touched on the presidential race.

Davis, who originally supported Senator Marcio Rubio, withdrew his support for Donald Trump last Saturday after news surfaced of a 2005 video in which the presidential nominee was heard making crude remarks about women. But he also called Hillary Clinton 'unfit' to serve as president.

"It's been very frustrating, I think to many Americans, the tone of the presidential race," he said.

Wicklund, who formerly supported Bernie Sanders, called Clinton the most experienced candidate for the nation's high office, but says the former secretary of state should have known better than to seperate her public and private e-mails.

"That's basic ethics 101 when you're running for public office," said Wicklund, who gave credit to Davis for withdrawing his support for Trump, but said he wished it would have been sooner.

The two have different solutions for the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Wicklund says Congress should be working together to move towards a single-payer system, or Medicare for all, instead of trying to repeal and replace the law. 

The president of the board at a small Decatur-based non-profit agency, Wicklund admits there are problems with unstable rates. He says heavy "middle management" has brought on higher premiums.

“I’d like to see a program that removes that middle man, leaving our insurance companies, which have been around," he said. They know the business and how to negotiate, and allow them to manage the health care program that our country so direly needs – that makes it equal health care for everybody in this country, and not just those with the most amount of money, or the Cadillac insurance plans, we see a lot of that in this country.”

Davis want to repeal and replace the law due to those higher premiums, and for Congress to negotiate a plan that covers pre-existing conditions.

On the issue of gun control, Wicklund, who stands behind the 2nd Amendment, says operators of gun shows on Indiana should be doing background checks on who the weapons are sold to, urging Congress to address the 'gun show loophole,'

"There's not one legal gun being used in the violence in the city of Chicago." he said. 

The Congressman says he agrees with his opponent.

"You see gun violence in communities - criminals don't care about a FOID card," said Davis, who said the House passed a measure he co-sponsored that would address mental health issues that often lead to gun violence, but is being held up in the Senate. "We need to address the root problem and root cause of criminal behavior."

At a time when a Gallup poll gives Congress an 11-percent approval rating, Davis admits some of the gridlock in Washington is indefensible.

But Davis says there hasn’t been enough attention placed on bills that passed the US House addressing the opioid crisis, mental health reform, and a highway bill to rebuild roads and bridges.

He says the Obama administration is to blame for more not getting done.

"We have a stagnant economy, we have stagnant job growth, and this president hasn’t introduced a balanced budget his entire two terms - for eight years," he said. "I have personally supported balance budgets every single year that I’ve been given a chance to vote on a budget. These are types of things that lead to more polarization.”

Wicklund says President Obama still manages to accomplish a lot despite a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, but he says Washington is lacking pure leadership in either chamber.

The debate, which carried live on WILL AM and FM, will be rebroadcast Monday night at 7 p.m. on WILL-TV.