URBANA — Unlike their presidential nominees, the two major party candidates for the 13th Congressional District kept their tone civil and arguments focused on policy during a debate Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, and Democratic challenger Mark Wicklund of Decatur covered a range of topics during the event at the WILL-TV studio on the University of Illinois campus.
The debate was hosted by Illinois Public Media, NPR Illinois and the League of Women Voters of Champaign County.
Davis, 46, is seeking his third term in office. Wicklund, 48, is a former Macon County Board member and president of the Decatur-Macon County Opportunities Corp. board.
While Davis initially endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during the primaries, he later supported eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump and agreed to serve on his agricultural advisory committee. He ended both on Saturday after the revelation of a 2005 recording of Trump making vulgar comments about women.
“It’s a decision that my wife and I made across the kitchen counter when we heard the recent comments,” Davis said, citing the example he wants to set for his three teenage children. “What we heard was something that I don’t think should be heard from anyone, let alone candidates running for the president of the United States.”
Wicklund backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders but has since thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton, calling her the most experienced candidate.
He doesn’t agree with all of her actions, though.
“Well, you know, that’s Basic Ethics 101 when you’re running for public office. ... She should’ve known to separate her email accounts and keep them that way,” he said.
“The FBI has looked at those and felt there was no need to file any charges. She’s promised to do better going down the road, and I’ll hold her to that promise.”
Both candidates said they support Second Amendment rights and spoke about the need to address mental health issues as part of any strategy to reduce gun violence.
Wicklund said he wanted to close the “gun show loophole,” which allows private individuals to buy firearms at gun shows in some states without passing a background check.
“If they can go next door to Indiana, go there and purchase a weapon of any caliber they want and bring it back to Chicago … (Closing the loophole) will tighten that up and reduce the amount of guns coming into the Chicago area,” Wicklund said.
Davis said criminals don’t follow gun restrictions. “Every time a new law is passed to address a problem that criminals will never follow anyway, it only affects law-abiding citizens,” he said. “That’s something I’m going to fight against.”
They agreed that attacking law enforcement was not the way to resolve issues, and both called for judicial reform. In different terms, they spoke of the need for improved communication between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect.
Davis continued his call to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has repeatedly supported replacing it with other legislation that would include allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines.
Wicklund acknowledged problems with the health care legislation, but said it was a good starting point. He indicated support for a Medicare-for-all or single-payer addition to the system.
The debate will be rebroadcast at 7 p.m. Monday on WILL-TV.