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Politics and Government
WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

In 13th District Race, Stefanie Smith Says Public Option Isn't Good Enough

Stefanie Smith
Stefanie Smith for Congress
Democrat Stefanie Smith is running in the 13th Congressional District.

Democratic congressional candidate Stefanie Smith says anything short of Medicare For All is not enough to fix America’s health care system.

Smith is running for the 13th District, which includes parts of Bloomington-Normal. She will face Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in the March 17 primary. The winner faces Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis in November.

Smith supports Medicare For All, a single-payer, government-run model of healthcare reform in which private insurance would mostly go away. Londrigan supports the more limited public option, where private insurance would still exist, but people could choose to get a government plan instead.

Smith said a public option is not good enough.

“That undercuts the point of the program and still does not address the corruption we see in the medical and insurance industry,” Smith said.

Smith is a paid intern at Cunningham Township working on poverty, homelessness, and sexual violence issues, as well as a human and labor rights advocate. Smith said she has a chronic disease that requires her to see many specialists. She has employer-provided insurance but says she still can’t afford the basic treatments she needs on a regular basis.

Credit Carleigh Gray / WGLT
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan was the Democratic nominee in 2018, losing to Rep. Rodney Davis by around 2,000 votes.

“Even people who are well off are struggling under this system,” Smith said. “The policies that Londrigan and Davis support would still put people like me, and people more vulnerable than me, in their graves. This is a life-or-death issue for working-class people.”

Democrats were unable to pass even a public option during the Obama administration. How would Smith tactically approach getting something much more expansive passed?

“I’m not going to mince words: Our federal government is not functioning. If anybody is in a House race promising they can move any legislation, they are lying,” Smith said.

The 13th District race is considered a toss-up. President Donald Trump won the district by 5 percentage points in 2016. Smith has been endorsed by democratic socialist groups in the district. What is her message to voters who are concerned she’s too far to the left for the district?

“I have voted blue-no-matter-who and suffered decades of bad policies because of it,” Smith said. “If they think I’m too far left because I actually want policy that supports people and will aid in their survival, then I think they are the ones facing moral crisis. Not me.”

'Manufactured Crisis' In Champaign

Smith also responded to an incident that happened last month in Champaign.

A small group of protesters confronted Londrigan after an event, shouting at her through a car window and attempting to block her in. A Facebook Live video was shared on the Where is Betsy? Facebook page. That page is run by people who’ve expressed support for Smith’s candidacy.

Smith said the media misreported what happened, calling it a “manufactured crisis.” Her campaign said the group’s actions “were not associated with or approved by the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Stefanie Smith campaign, or the Democratic Socialists of America.” 

“These people just wanted answers from somebody trying to represent them,” Smith told WGLT on Thursday. “I’m not going to throw people under the bus for that. I’m absolutely not. That’s their choice. I wasn’t involved. I don’t think that’s the most effective form of protest. But the idea that I should be made accountable for that is absolutely ludicrous.”

Smith said she’s received “dead hooker jokes and threats” from who she describes as Londrigan and Davis supporters. She said she’s reported some to the police.

Listen to WGLT's FULL interview with Smith

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