BLOOMINGTON — Repairing the weakened Affordable Care Act, fully funding Social Security, reforming immigration and launching universal background checks for potential gun owners were among positions advocated Tuesday night by the Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District.
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield, who is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville, conducted her 11th town hall meeting at Illinois Wesleyan University's Ames Library in Bloomington. About 70 people attended the event and many of them asked questions, but it was clear that the majority favored Londrigan.
"She is certainly an exciting breath of fresh air," said moderator Tari Renner, an IWU professor and Bloomington mayor, chiding Davis for a lack of face-to-face town hall meetings.
Londrigan — a former schoolteacher, political activist and fundraiser — recounted how one of her sons spent 21 days in a pediatric intensive care unit years ago.
"In our family, what we know to be true is if we hadn't had good health care, I would be a mom of not three but two (children)," she said.
Arguing "we all deserve good health care," Londrigan said the next step in health care reform is to "fix" the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which she said has been weakened by the Trump administration.
"The ACA has been broken. ... We gotta fix that first," she said.
She also favors offering Medicare as a public option and clamping down on pharmacy benefit managers, which she said "operate in a shroud of secrecy" and get reimbursed from the government far more than they pay for drugs.
But she stopped short of saying she favored Medicare for all. "Before I commit to it, I want to see what it costs," Londrigan said.
Davis was not at the event but The Pantagraph offered him an opportunity to respond.
"Obamacare has been failing since its inception," Davis said in a written statement. "Whether you're healthy or have a pre-existing condition, Obamacare's premiums have increased by an average of 108 percent for people in the 13th District since 2013, choices have dwindled to one or two insurers and nearly 29 million people in the U.S. still don't have insurance. The answer isn't more government-run health care."
Regarding Social Security, Londrigan said "Cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare should be off the table. We should fully fund Social Security."
On immigration, she said: "We need border security but it should be part of overall immigration reform. We need a clean DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) bill."
On gun control, she said "I come from a family of responsible gun owners."
"I haven't heard anyone disagree with universal background checks" for potential gun owners, she said. People who are dangerously mentally ill or have a history of domestic abuse should not own guns, she said.
"We can do all of these things and protect the Second Amendment," she said.
On the Trump administration conflict with China over tariffs and subsequent assistance for farmers, Londrigan said: "Our farmers don't want handouts. They want markets to sell to. This bailout is a Band-Aid on a self-inflicted wound."
Logan Smith, 19, of Normal, a Democratic candidate for McLean County Board District 4, asked Londrigan whether she favored lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.
"I'll have to think about that, Logan," Londrigan said.
Smith told The Pantagraph later that, even though he thinks the voting age should be lowered to 16, he respected Londrigan's answer.
"I'm glad she's taking questions and listening," he said. "I think that's a must for any representative to make sure they're listening to all the people they represent, not just the people who voted for them."
Londrigan said some leaders in Washington, D.C., work to divide the electorate.
"There is truly more that we have in common than divides us," she said. "I will work to unite us."