2 Democrats challenging Rodney Davis even though congressional remap not complete – The State Journal-Register

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Nikki Budzinski, Democratic candidate for U.S. House from Springfield, Illinois

Even though boundary lines for the 13th Congressional District likely will change between now and November 2022, Democrats Nikki Budzinski and David Palmer already have declared their intent to challenge five-term Republican Congressman Rodney Davis for reelection.

Budzinski, 44, a labor activist and former adviser to Gov. JB Pritzker, was born and raised in Peoria and moved to Springfield in July from Washington, D.C., to explore a run against Davis, a Taylorville resident.

“I don’t think that Rodney Davis is getting the job done for working families in this area,” said Budzinski, who said she has lived in Springfield sporadically for a total of 10 years. This is her first attempt at elected office. 

More:GOP officials optimistic about 2022 elections on eve of Republican Day Rally at state fair

Budzinski is a former national political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a paid staffer in Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018 before working in the Pritzker administration as a senior adviser for a year.

For six months after that, she was chief of staff in President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget.

She launched her campaign Tuesday and said she has been endorsed by UFCW Local 881, Pastor Ray McJunkins of Springfield’s Union Baptist Church, Sangamon County Democratic Chairman Bill Houlihan and Democratic county chairpersons from Christian, Jersey, Calhoun and Macoupin counties.

“I’ve spent my whole life fighting for working people, and I’ll do the same in Congress,” Budzinski said. “I want to make sure every Illinoisan has access to the same middle-class opportunities that my grandparents did as union painters and teachers.”

More:Population differences between districts should doom Democrat-draw map, GOP leaders say

Palmer, 35, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to Champaign 10 years ago. He is a Country Financial insurance broker and financial planner. He was a scholarship basketball player for the University of Iowa who later played basketball professionally overseas.

Palmer launched his campaign two weeks ago and said he became interested in running for Congress after working at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign and with clients as a financial adviser. This also is his first attempt at elected office. 

“I felt like I needed to do more for the youth in our community,” Palmer said. “We need better representation in Congress. For me, it was about getting off the sidelines. I think Rodney is out of touch. He’s become much too partisan.”

Palmer said one of his main priorities if elected, would be to push for the creation of more good-paying, union jobs through federally funded infrastructure improvement programs.

“I want to make sure people can start to see a better future for themselves and their children,” he said. 

Davis, 51, a former staff member for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has defeated three different Democratic challengers over the years in a district designed by Democrats who control the General Assembly to give a Democrat a better chance of winning. 

Rep. Rodney Davis, 13th Congressional District. 6/01/2017

The current 13th district extends to Bloomington on the north, Champaign on the east, parts of Springfield on the west and into the Metro East area near St. Louis on the south. 

Illinois is losing one of its 18 seats in Congress because of population changes across the country. Democrats in the legislature haven’t yet proposed a new congressional map, but Democrats nationwide are focusing on Davis’ status as they try to maintain a slim majority in the U.S. House in 2022. 

The new map could put Davis in a district with another incumbent Republican member of Congress, such as Mary Miller of Oakland, or it could be redrawn to include even more Democratic-leaning areas.

Davis said he would like to run for reelection but is keeping his options open, including a potential run for governor, depending on the new map Democrats are expected to finalize by fall 2021 for party primaries in June 2022 and the general election in November 2022.

More:General Assembly leaders to convene special session for potential legislative map changes

The map, Davis said, “is going to be determined by Democrats in Springfield who have a legacy of corruption and who are dead set in trying to impact unfairly Republicans who are in Congress.”

Even with the uncertainty surrounding Illinois’ new congressional map, Budzinski said she launched her campaign now because Davis has voted against initiating negotiations in Congress on infrastructure legislation that would make child care more affordable and lower the cost of prescription drugs through the Medicare program.

“These are things that are happening right now, and I think that working families can’t wait, and I wanted to build a strong campaign and start campaigning in the current 13th district,” she said.

Regarding infrastructure legislation, Davis said in a news release that he voted “no” to Biden’s “$3.5 trillion spending plan and massive tax hikes on the American economy, including on small business and family farms.

“… We should be focusing our time and energy on evacuating every last American citizen and ally out of Afghanistan, securing our border and getting inflation under control,” he said.

Budzinski said “no working person’s pocketbook would be impacted” to pay for Biden’s infrastructure plan. “If you’re making under $400,000 (per year), you will not see your taxes increased. Those that are doing better will be asked to pay more, not working families.” 

Budzinski, who is single and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history, said she would like to push for more affordable post-secondary education in Congress.

“We need to be making community colleges, vocational education and four-year college more affordable,” she said.

She said she is pro-choice on abortion. A supporter of the Second Amendment, she said she has hunted in the past but favors universal background checks and wants to see assault-style weapons banned for civilians.

She brushed off criticism from a Davis campaign aide who said she is “a lifelong Democratic political operative who is steeped in corrupt, Madigan-style politics.

“When she was a top staffer for Gov. Pritzker, she helped Mike Madigan put his allies in patronage jobs throughout state government,” Davis campaign spokesman Aaron DeGroot said. “Illinois voters have had enough of corrupt ‘Madigan Machine’ politicians like Budzinski.”

Budzinski said she doesn’t know what DeGroot is referring to when he mentions patronage jobs. She said she worked for Pritzker, not Madigan, and will not accept campaign contributions from the former Democratic Illinois House speaker from Chicago.

She said she raised $125,000 in the 24 hours after her campaign launch.

Palmer, who is married and has a 3½-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter, earned a bachelor’s in history from the University of Iowa. He wouldn’t say how much he has raised thus far but is confident he can be competitive with Davis.

David Palmer, Democratic candidate for U.S. House from Champaign, Illinois

He said he is pro-choice on abortion and is a gun owner who favors universal background checks.

On health care, he said he favors creating a “public option” that would allow people shopping for insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges to purchase a Medicare-style plan.

Davis aide DeGroot said: “David Palmer would be a rubber stamp for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden’s reckless, $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan. Illinois can’t afford the Biden-Sanders-Palmer agenda.”

Palmer called Davis’ campaign statement “interesting” and “just partisan politics again. He lives in a country of ‘Red’ or ‘Blue.’

“We just need to have people who can get things done for the district rather than being a partisan hack,” Palmer said.

Contact Dean Olsen: dolsen@gannett.com; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

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August 28, 2021 at 05:50AM

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