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About Progressive Round Table Dr. David Gill Bernard Schoenburg: Will Gill’s liberalism play in new 13th?
Monday, 26 March 2012 05:54

Bernard Schoenburg: Will Gill’s liberalism play in new 13th?

Written by  Bernard Schoenburg | SJ-R

The November race in the new 13th Congressional District, which includes much of Springfield, is shaping up to be far different than some Democrats — like U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill. — had hoped.

The candidate Durbin endorsed in last week’s primary, MATT GOETTEN, is state’s attorney of Greene County (crime-fighter) and an Afghanistan war veteran (hero). He joined the race long after DAVID GILL, an emergency room doctor from Bloomington, decided to make his fourth try to topple U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana. Wouldn’t it be better to have a fresh face, instead of someone who could be called a three-time loser — even though Gill argues that the new congressional map gives Democrats a real shot this time?

Well, actual voters have a way of dashing plans like that of Durbin and other party engineers. It turned out that Gill had a base of support in areas he’s run in before, such as Champaign-Urbana, and he explained his views with knowledge and passion. He directly took on the perceived “war on women” coming from RUSH LIMBAUGH and others, while Goetten tried to stay non-controversial, agreeing to only one broadcast debate and trying to talk about jobs when asked about some touchier issues. Barring an unexpected turnaround based on as-yet-uncounted absentee ballots, it didn’t work. Gill held onto a 143-vote advantage following unofficial election night results.

So, the question is whether Gill, who supports a form of national health care, strongly supports abortion rights and thinks gay marriage is a matter of simple justice, can win in a district that includes swaths of rural territory not known as liberal hot spots.

Time will tell, of course, but in a post-primary conversation, here’s how Gill framed some of those issues himself.

On health care, Gill said, “It’ll be important for me to get across to the voters that I’m not talking about anything like the Affordable Health Care Act, or what’s commonly known as Obamacare.” He said his plan for “improved Medicare for all” would be a way for people to have better health care, while also “hanging on to more of their money (by) stopping the flow of 40 percent of our health-care dollars into a black pit known as the private health insurance industry. And so, I don’t consider that an extremely progressive position. I consider it a people-oriented position.”

For more than 20 years, he’s been a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization that supports single-payer national health insurance.

Gill emphasized during his primary campaign that he won’t take campaign money from corporate political action committees or Wall Street lobbyists. But what about labor unions?
Gill said he views labor PACs in a different light.

“I don’t think corporations are there to make people’s lives better,” he said. “The multinational corporations that take jobs out of this country, their primary goal is not to make the lives of middle class and all Americans more comfortable.”

But don’t they make products people like?

“Their dominance of politics and government has resulted in the gains in productivity in this country, but the vast majority in gains go to a very tiny sliver of our society,” Gill said.

Labor unions can be called interest groups, he said, “but I think their primary interest is in promoting the well-being of the vast majority of Americans.”

Gill said he does not think being for gay marriage today is too progressive, because attitudes on the issue have changed rapidly.

“Support for it is growing exponentially, and I think these politicians who refuse to get on board are really falling behind the curve,” Gill said. “It’s part of our national character to be interested in fairness and justice, and I think it’s not going to be too much longer … before we’re looking back at the question of consenting adults getting married who (are) of the same gender … the same way we look today at the laws in Virginia in 1967 that a black adult and a white adult couldn’t get married. I think we’ll be saying, ‘What was that all about?’ So … I’m forward thinking, but … politically, I don’t think it causes harm. And again, I think people appreciate my integrity.”

It was in 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Virginia law banning interracial marriage.

Johnson has a long political career as a Republican, but he isn’t always mainstream in his views. His strong advocacy of his friend RON PAUL for president, for example, doesn’t put him in the middle of the GOP road. And even Johnson said, on election night, that Gill is “a committed person of great principles who gives voters a choice.”

“Nobody’s going to agree with any other person on every single issue of the day,” Gill said, adding that even if people don’t agree with him on some things, “I think just the fact that I’m out there giving them a straight answer is appreciated.”

It promises to be an interesting campaign.

Wins ahead?
U.S. Rep. STEVE ISRAEL, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had a conference call with Illinois reporters Wednesday to announce five U.S. House races in Illinois that the DCCC is emphasizing through what it calls the “red-to-blue” program. That name indicates a shift from the GOP to Democrats, though also included is the new 12th Congressional District, where the seat is open because of the coming retirement of Democratic Rep. JERRY COSTELLO of Belleville. The new 13th wasn’t included, though Israel said that’s because the name of the Democratic nominee against Johnson wasn’t yet certain. But he also said he wasn’t ruling out a party push for Gill.

“Oh no, not at all,” Israel said. “I just haven’t made that assessment yet.”

He said he expects Democrats to win at least two of three races under the new map: Democrat TAMMY DUCKWORTH of Hoffman Estates vs. GOP Rep. JOE WALSH of McHenry in the 8th; Democrat BRAD SCHNEIDER of Deerfield vs. GOP Rep. ROBERT DOLD of Kenilworth in the 10th; and CHERI BUSTOS of East Moline vs. GOP Rep. BOBBY SCHILLING of Colona in the 17th. Bustos is a daughter of GENE and ANN CALLAHAN of Springfield.

Also “in play,” Israel said, are races featuring former Democratic U.S. Rep. BILL FOSTER of Naperville vs. GOP Rep. JUDY BIGGERT of Hinsdale in the 11th; and Democrat BRAD HARRIMAN of O’Fallon vs. Republican JASON PLUMMER of Fairview Heights in the 12th. Plummer was the 2010 GOP candidate for lieutenant governor.

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