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Budzinski, Deering gear up for November in 13th Congressional District

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SPRINGFIELD — One is the daughter of public school teachers. The other is a scion of one of the most prominent families in American agribusiness. 

Both are competing to become the congresswoman for Illinois' 13th Congressional District, a central and southern Illinois-based district that could be at the forefront in the battle for control of Congress in 2022.

Nikki Budzinski

Budzinski

Regan Deering

Deering

The former, Nikki Budzinski, easily won the Democratic primary while the latter, Regan Deering, eked out a close victory in a competitive four-way Republican primary in late June.

This set the stage for the November election, when voters will ultimately decide which candidate they want representing them in Congress.

Budzinski, a Peoria native who now lives in Springfield, is a former senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and served as chief of staff to the federal Office of Budget and Management under President Joe Biden. 

Deering, a Decatur native, is a former educator and community activist involved in several causes. Most notably, she was president of the board of directors for the Northeast Community Fund, an organization that serves low-income Decatur families by helping with food, clothing, financial assistance and advising programs.

They are running in a string bean-shaped district that stretches from the Metro East region near St. Louis to Champaign-Urbana, picking up the urban cores Springfield and Decatur in between. It is largely urban in character, but also includes all of Macoupin County and other rural areas in Central Illinois.

It's a condensed version of the current district, represented by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who was drawn into the new 15th Congressional District during the once-a-decade redistricting process. He ran in that district but lost the Republican primary to Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland

The new 13th, on the other hand, leans Democratic, voting for Biden in the 2020 presidential election by an 11-point margin. 

The district is a mix of blue collar — with factory jobs in places like Decatur and Granite City, for example — and white collar industries that dot the terrain that is otherwise filled with fertile farmland. 

In this backdrop, both candidates' broad scale messaging touches on similar themes, with Deering emphasizing "kitchen table issues" impacting voters and Budzinski saying that her campaign is centered around "issues that help working people."

But that is where the similarities end, with the candidates offering starkly contrasting views on policy and different personal backgrounds. 

Budzinski, the granddaughter of a union painter and daughter of schoolteachers, spent a significant portion of her career in the labor movement, including stints with the International Association of Firefighters and later the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

She also worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and previously worked for former Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. 

"So I'm a trade unionist, a made-in-America Democrat," Budzinski said in an interview with Lee Enterprises. "I'm not a typical Democrat."

Budzinski said that her background in the labor movement helps form her views and keeps her attuned to the labor-heavy constituency she hopes to represent, which she said is a contrast to Deering. 

"I'm one of the few congressional candidates that has been on multiple kill floors," Budzinski said. "I know what dangerous work looks like."

"Regan Deering is a woman of significant means that has inherited family wealth," she continued. "I grew up middle class. I really struggle to see how she can really understand the real issues that are confronting working families in central and southern Illinois."

Deering is a member of the Andreas family, which ran Archer Daniels Midland Co. for nearly four decades and, in the process, transformed it from a modest regional grain processor into a world-leading company.

Her grandfather, the late Dwayne Andreas, served as president and CEO from 1970 to 1997 and counted American presidents and world leaders as friends.

Deering's father, the late Michael "Mick" Andreas, had been in line to succeed his father as president and CEO until he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the 1990s ADM price-fixing scandal.

It is a family background that Deering does not shy away from. 

"I'm very proud of my family (and) to be an Andreas," Deering said in an interview with Lee Enterprises. "I know that my grandfather came to this community in Decatur to be able to work towards elevating ADM. We've got them now on the global stage — tremendous job creators, tremendous economic drivers here in this community.

"I know that as a family with means, we did make a strong commitment to staying here," she continued. "We love the Decatur community. My siblings and I, we went to schools here, we own businesses here now, we're raising our families here."

Deering was born in Decatur but spent most of her adolescence in the Chicago region, moving back to Soy City after getting married. She has since been involved in various philanthropic endeavors and was a small business owner.  

Deering campaign spokeswoman Whitney Barnes, responding to Budzinski questioning Deering's ability to relate with working class people, said that "Regan has been actively working on the ground to help her whole community, especially low and middle income families, for years."

"If Ms. Budzinski was serious about helping working families, instead of acting with Gov. Pritzker to shut down power plants like CWLP," Barnes said, referring to Springfield's municipally owned coal-fired plant, "or helping President Biden increase our dependence on foreign oil, she would know that the energy industry supports union and non-union families throughout our district."

Deering said she considers herself a practitioner of "common sense conservatism."  

She has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, but said she "applauded" bipartisan talks on gun safety.

Though she is against abortion, a position formed by her own background as an adoptee, Deering said that she supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life and health of the mother. 

"I want to support women who are finding themselves in crisis as well," Deering said. "And I think that our communities have those resources. We need to continue to elevate those resources. But as a candidate, I will do all that I can to continue to support life."

Asked about a possible national abortion ban, Deering said she believed policies should be left to the states, even if she personally disagrees with the policies of states like Illinois. 

"I'm not going to align with everyone 100% of the time, especially knowing this is a Democratic-leaning district," Deering said. "But I do want to be able to meet people where they are and know that I'm an elected representative that wants to listen to them, wants to hear both sides of an argument and know that they have my commitment to voting appropriately for what's best for my district."

On the abortion question, Budzinski said she "will always fight for a woman to make her own health care decisions." And on guns, though she said she supports the Second Amendment, Budzinski said she was for "sensible gun safety measures."

On economic issues, Budzinski takes a different tack than some members of her own party, calling it a "more pragmatic ... all of the above" energy approach.

She supported the construction of the Land of Lincoln Energy Center, a proposed natural gas plant in Pawnee, for instance. 

She is also in favor of more populist economic policies that will lead to more manufacturing in the United States. She said such proposals are often bipartisan.

"They are mainstream economic issues that provide relief and help people keep more of what they earn," Budzinski said. "That's not all Democrats. I'm not every other Democrat. I can actually work together with people on both sides of the aisle to get things done. It's what I've done my entire career."

Financially, Budzinski started the general election with more than $1 million cash on hand, a significant advantage over Deering, who had just over $37,000 in the bank and more than $233,000 in campaign debt.

But Deering, who loaned her campaign $150,000 in the primary, is believed to have enough personal wealth to tap should she choose to do so. 

According to the Cook Political Report, a national elections handicapper, the race currently "leans Democratic." But both sides believe it will be competitive. 

"I don't think there's any doubt that it's gonna be competitive," said Bill Houlihan, the district's Democratic State Central Committeeman. "The question is for both candidates is what kind of resources are they going to be able to spend and who does a better job of turning out the vote?"

Deering, who said she voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, did not directly answer whether she thought the former president should run again.

"I think this election this year is more about progress and policy than personalities," Deering said. "So I think that I want to continue to meet people where they are and talk about what my priorities are for them and being a good listener and knowing that I'm advocating for the people as their elected official."

Budzinski, though not shying away from her service for Biden, whose approval ratings are currently low, said that despite a challenging political environment, her labor ties and focus on working class issues will get her across the finish line.

"It's all economic issues and it's about how we're going to help working families," Budzinski said. 


Contact Brenden Moore at 217-421-7984. Follow him on Twitter at @brendenmoore13.

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