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Watch now: Davis-Londrigan rematch replays familiar themes

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SPRINGFIELD — The blitz of TV ads targeting U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan are one indication of the national interest being directed at this tight rematch. 

The challenger is making her second attempt to flip the seat, two years after narrowly falling short. 

Both parties at the national level have sought to attract attention and money to the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified Davis' district as one of 33 to focus on, in an effort to expand the party’s majority in the House. 

The DCCC has also put money into Londrigan’s campaign through its “Hold the House” fund, an effort to direct funding to 30 races Democrats see as critical to maintaining their majority in the House.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republicans' Super PAC, pumped millions of dollars in fall advertising to highlight a number of races, including Davis' effort to stave off Londrigan’s challenge.

Davis was first elected in 2013 and is seeking his fifth term in Congress. Londrigan won a crowded five-way primary in 2018, but Davis in the November election that year defeated her by 2,058 ballots. He won 50.4% of the vote, while she carried 49%. 

The candidates participated in two debates over the last two weeks and covered a range of topics including climate change, agriculture and COVID-19. 

Health care remains a point of discord. Tensions over the subject grew during a debate on Oct. 6 when the candidates were asked about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Affordable Care Act and abortion laws. 

Londrigan several times throughout the debate pointed to Davis voting 11 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which also includes coverage for pre-existing conditions. Davis said procedural votes do not have an impact on a replacement or on the bill that is passing. 

“As the husband of a 21-year cancer survivor and mother of my children who are at ISU right now, I never and will never sacrifice pre-existing condition coverage,” Davis said to The Pantagraph on Thursday.  

Londrigan also spoke with The Pantagraph and said losing the Affordable Care Act will be a significant issue for the constituents of the 13th Congressional District.

“The urgency with which we have to elect people who are committed to protecting our healthcare, protecting the ACA, protecting benefits is critical,” Londrigan said. 

Londrigan’s campaign and its focus on health could benefit from Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden’s attention to the same issue, said Laurel Harbridge-Yong, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University.

“They’re advocating that only a Biden administration can push forward legislation to continue to protect preexisting conditions, to the extent that narrative is more compelling to voters, that could certainly help Betsy Dirksen Londrigan," Harbridge-Yong said.

Davis is an honorary co-chair of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in Illinois and could be helped by the president’s “message of we’re already recovering from the pandemic, we’re going to keep moving forward, the economy’s on the rebound,” Harbridge-Yong said.

Campaign reports showed Davis had $1.7 million in cash available to start the month while Londrigan had $1.3 million to begin October. Londrigan outraised Davis in the July through September period, $1.55 million to $1.2 million.

Davis and Londrigan again debated Oct. 13 at Illinois State University, but this time over climate change, a pandemic relief package and police reform

Watch now: Recapping Tuesday's debate between Rodney Davis, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan

Neither candidate supports the Green New Deal proposal, which outlines a shift to 100% renewable and zero-emission energy sources, but they have different views on the issue. Londrigan says the proposal does not give enough control to Central Illinois farmers and that they should be included in decisions made about the land they make their livelihoods off of. Davis says he doesn’t support a plan that would get rid of coal plants or nuclear energy plants, ultimately eliminating “good union jobs.”

The two have very different views on police reform. Davis said he spoke with former Macon County law enforcement officials shortly after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. Public outcry and protests sparked nationwide after Floyd’s death and the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot to death during a police raid on March 13. 

Davis said he reached out to a former law enforcement administrator in Macon County to ask what could be done to assist with improving training or implementing de-escalation techniques and he was advised that Illinois is leading the way in those areas.

“We can’t paint our law enforcement officers with a broad brush of corruption,” said Davis on Thursday. “The majority of our officers are doing their job.” He mentioned during the debate when he saw a first-hand example of officers showing courage in difficult situations. He recalled that, during the 2017 shooting incident, two Black officers ran into the path of gunfire to protect the crowd that included Davis. 

Londrigan, who said she attended several peaceful protests throughout the district over the summer, said change is necessary not just with law enforcement, but in many other areas. 

“I think that if people aren’t seeing and believing that we need to address racism and law enforcement and beyond, then you’re ignoring some very big problems,” Londrigan said Thursday. “We have to address what is happening in law enforcement and that means implicit bias training and crisis intervention training.”

Early voting will continue through Nov. 3. 

The district stretches from Urbana up to Bloomington-Normal through Decatur and to the Metro East. 

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.  


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Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro


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