By CARL GREEN
Collinsville – A leading Democratic candidate for Congress in the Illinois 13th District says incumbent Republican Rodney Davis is not the supporter of workers that he pretends to be.
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, speaking to the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council earlier this month, said claims of evenhandedness by Davis (R-Taylorville) are greatly exaggerated.
“While Rodney Davis likes to talk about being a supporter of Labor, he supports chipping away at everything that unions have been fighting for,” she said. “Fair pay and a safe workplace? Nope. Not letting employers determine overtime versus comp time? Nope.
“He is fighting against those things; he is following in lockstep with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.”
Council President Totsie Bailey agreed with her about Davis. “Davis is on TV all the time echoing anything Trump says,” he said.
Londrigan is in a four-way battle for the Democratic nomination in a spider-shaped district that is considered winnable for Democrats because it includes all or parts of several cities – Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur and Edwardsville – in addition to GOP-leaning rural territory between them.
Londrigan, 47, is a Springfield resident with a lengthy resume of service jobs, political work and fund-raising. She has been a middle-school teacher, director of alumni affairs for University of Illinois-Springfield and on the campaign for Senator Dick Durbin in 2008 and 2014, and has had her own consulting business, including seven years contracting with the Lincoln Library Foundation.
“I’ve been an avid supporter of Democrats for 22 years,” she said. “I’ve been in the trenches, helping a lot of good people getting elected.”
Good people trying to get her elected include Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, 9th District in and around Chicago, who both have endorsed her.
In recent campaign finance reports, Londrigan and Erik Jones, an attorney from Edwardsville, were leading in fundraising. Both have made numerous appearances before metro-east Labor groups. The Illinois AFL-CIO declined to endorse a primary candidate in the 13th District, saying more than one was supported by local members.
The other Democratic competitors in the 13th District are Dr. David Gill of Bloomington, who won the nomination in 2012 and narrowly lost to Davis; and Jonathan Ebel, a religion professor at the University of Illinois.
ACCESS TO GOOD HEALTH CARE
Londrigan said she was jolted into action by seeing images of Davis celebrating with President Trump over efforts to cut health care accessibility to families. She related how one of her three children was near death 12 years ago from a tick bite and that only a long and expensive hospital stay saved the boy.
“We spent 21 days in a pediatric intensive care unit with him. He was put into a medically induced coma and kept alive by a ventilator and a lot of machines for a long time. Those doctors and nurses kept him alive every minute of every day that summer. We were very fortunate, because eventually we got to take our boy home,” she said.
“But the lessons from that summer have never been lost on me. If we hadn’t had access to good health care, we would have lost him. If we hadn’t had good insurance, we would have been bankrupt, and if they hadn’t lifted the caps, our life now would be unrecognizable.”
“So to me, to see people celebrating taking that away from families was gross.”
‘I WANT TO BE THE VOICE OF WORKING-CLASS FAMILIES’
Since then, she said, Davis has worked hard – but against the interests of workers and the middle class.
“He fought hard for the Trumpcare bill,” she said. “He fought just as hard for the tax bill, which gives corporations incentives to ship jobs overseas, and rewards corporations and hurts the middle class. I don’t care how many times they go on television and try to tell us that it’s good for us, it’s wrong.
“I’m tired of being talked at by people who move to D.C., live in D.C. and come back and tell us what’s good for us. I don’t believe it,” she added.
“I want to be the voice of working-class families, and I want to be the voice for opportunities in education – and I don’t mean just college, I mean making sure our students know that a great life is out there for them through apprentice programs and through community colleges.”
The inevitable result of the tax bill, she said, will be a Republican push, already anticipated by House Speaker Ryan, to cut or end Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.
“They’ve been pretty clear about that,” she said.
STEEL AND INFRASTRUCTURE
The much-vaunted infrastructure plans, which could put people back to work and rebuild the country, also appear to be on long-term hold while the rich rake in their tax cuts.
“I thought we were going to have money for infrastructure,” Londrigan said. “Where is that going to come from now?”
She noted that Trump has reversed his campaign claims that he would get tough on steel imports, which also are putting American workers out of work.
“Why our representatives, when we have federal projects, are not demanding and writing in that we have to use U.S. steel is beyond me,” she said. “Why are we importing steel? We have workers here and we have mills here. Why aren’t we giving them the business and keeping it here?
“I want the jobs here,” she added. “The best social program that we have available to us is a good job. If we can bring that back to the district, that’s my priority – to make sure that families can turn their lights on and put food on the table.”
Londrigan’s campaign can be contacted online at betsydirksenlondrigan.com.