Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the 13th Congressional District race as one that could be won by either party. That’s because in 2018, Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan came within a percentage point of defeating U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville).
But unlike two years ago, Londrigan, 48, has competition in the March 17 Democratic primary from Stefanie Smith, 36, of Urbana. The first-time candidate says her past experiences including stints as homeless, working in strip clubs and using “survival sex as a means of finding food and shelter” would make her the best representative for working people.
Davis is unopposed in the GOP primary. Londrigan is on the national radar, as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named her to its “red to blue” list — candidates it thinks can flip GOP-held seats to the Democratic column. Londrigan also had more than $1 million in her campaign fund as of Dec. 31 which dwarfed Smith’s totals at the time of nearly $7,000 raised and $1,300 in the bank.
The 13th stretches from the Mississippi River on the west, the Metro East near St. Louis on the south, part of Bloomington-Normal to the north and Champaign to the east. All of Decatur and a portion of the capital city, including east and central Springfield, also are in the district.
“I am a daughter of the 13th District,” Londrigan, a Springfield native, said in response to a State Journal-Register questionnaire. She said she built a “grassroots army that is ready to finish what we started” in 2018.
Smith, a native of LeRoy, has said her now-estranged father had a mental health episode when she was 12, and she and her mother, who has since died, stayed for a time in an abandoned hotel her father had once owned, and with friends and relatives. She has worked as an intern for a township on issues including sexual violence, poverty and homelessness.
“I’m rural-raised, grew up in extreme poverty, and have a perspective on the most deadly issues facing us,” Smith said in response to the questionnaire.
Londrigan has worked as a middle-school teacher in Baltimore through Teach for America, was the first director of alumni affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield, and as a self-employed fundraiser. She has worked for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and nonprofit groups including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.
As in the 2018 race, Londrigan says health care is her top priority. She says she will work to “stabilize the Affordable Care Act so no one loses coverage,” and protect the list of benefits the law says insurance plans must include. She also backs a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies over prices. And she would “push to introduce a public option through Medicare to bring competition to the market, beginning with communities with one or zero providers and small business owners.”
Smith, on health care, said: “Anything less than single payer is eugenics.” The word refers to selective breeding of humans.
Smith also said last fall she developed a form of arthritis affecting the spine while in college, and while symptoms were brought under control, she was left with $50,000 of medical and educational debt.
Smith said her top priority is “restoration of human and civil rights, an end to imperialism, and with the money saved from that, health care and robust social and labor policies to support the working class.”
Asked under what circumstances they would vote to authorize a president to use military action, Smith said: “Defensive action in concert with international law, never acting unilaterally.”
Londrigan said Congress should “reassert its role by updating the current authorization for use of military force from 2001. Congress must have a voice in our security policy and has for too long allowed the executive branch to use military force unchecked.”
On abortion, Londrigan said she trusts women "to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. The right to access safe, legal abortion services must be protected." She noted she has backing of EMILY’s List, which seeks to elect pro-choice women, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, which provides a range of medical services, including abortion.
She also said Davis "recently called for the Supreme Court to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent."
Davis was one of 207 members of Congress who signed a brief filed in January in a case that was argued Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A federal judge found that if the law takes effect, two of three abortion clinics in Louisiana would close.
The Associated Press reported the brief, in addition to backing the Arkansas law, suggests "the court could go further and overrule the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision" that made abortion legal.
Ashley Phelps, spokeswoman for Davis, said the case is only about states’ rights to place restrictions on abortion.
Londrigan and Smith appeared together on Feb. 10 at a forum in Champaign. Two weeks later, a small group of protesters, in video posted on Facebook, followed Londrigan to her car after another event in Champaign. A man shouted demands for a debate, including “Where’s Betsy?” He also encouraged others in the group to “block her in” her car. Nobody was hurt.
Smith said her campaign did not coordinate with anyone on protests, but “we encourage non-violent protest, direct action, and civil disobedience.” Someone was carrying a red umbrella in the video, and Smith said on Facebook the red umbrella is “the international symbol to end violence against sex workers.”
While Smith accused Londrigan of avoiding a "real debate," a Londrigan campaign spokesman said no formal debate requests were turned down.
Contact Bernard Schoenburg: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.
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via The State Journal-Register
March 9, 2020 at 06:57AM