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Health care, economy key issues in LaHood-Petrilli U.S. House race
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Health care, economy key issues in LaHood-Petrilli U.S. House race

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BLOOMINGTON — Two-term Republican Congressman Darin LaHood of Dunlap and Democratic challenger George Petrilli, an attorney from Springfield, are squaring off in the 18th Congressional District, where health care, the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic response are among key issues.

The district covers portions of central and western Illinois, including Woodford and parts of McLean and Tazewell counties. It includes parts of Normal of Bloomington.

An earlier version of this story said all of Normal is in the district.

LaHood, a former state senator and former federal prosecutor, was appointed to the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2015 and won elections in 2016 and 2018. LaHood said he hopes “to build on what we’ve been able to accomplish” in the last five years.

Petrilli, a litigation and patent attorney, said he is running because he doesn’t think problems are being addressed. “I consider myself to be very pragmatic, said Petrilli. “Good public policy transcends party.”

LaHood said he would have voted against the Affordable Care Act had he been in Congress at the time, saying it has decreased competition. But he does favor some elements of the act, such as protection of people with pre-existing conditions, and he thinks the ability to cross state lines for insurance and for industries to form insurance pools are good ideas.

Petrilli thinks healthcare should be seen as a basic human right. “The current system is internationally embarrassing. People on the lower end of the scale will always come up short,” he said. Petrilli supports a universal, single-payer system, although the transition would not take place immediately. He said the high cost of health insurance discourages people from starting new businesses.

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As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, LaHood said he has advocated for rural America, business and agriculture. “I’m not really a fan of tariffs,” he said, favoring expanded markets and trade agreements instead.

Petrilli there has been a failure to recognize future jobs and training needs. Trying to bring back “failed industries,” such as coal mining won’t work, he said. “For a lot of industries that have failed, the economy has evolved past that,” said Petrilli.

Both see a need for a second stimulus package to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a lot of businesses that are not going to survive the next six to nine months if we don’t help them,”  said LaHood. He said another Paycheck Protection Program is needed for disproportionally affected businesses. He also favors extending the unemployment benefit boost at a $300 level.

Petrilli is hopeful another bipartisan COVID-19 relief package can be approved. “We’re not all that far off from the Trump administration,” he said in reference to the Democratic Party. Petrilli criticized what he sees as a lack of recognition of the threat and strong action early in the pandemic.

Planning to vote in person this year? What Illinois voters should know before heading to the polls.

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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