State Rep. Dan Brady and his GOP primary challenger David Paul Blumenshine sparred Monday over term limits, as both offered competing strategies for limiting Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan’s power in Springfield.
Facing his first primary fight since winning his seat in 2000, Brady pushed back on Blumenshine’s claim that term limits were the only way to dislodge partisan gridlock and solve the state’s biggest problems. During the 60-minute debate, Blumenshine referred to term limits over and over, also invoking Madigan’s name repeatedly.
Brady said he supports term limits for caucus leaders like Madigan, but not for rank-and-file members like Brady himself. He said there were better ways to chip away at Madigan’s power, like focusing on winning House races or the Democratic caucus voting him out.
“I stand before the electorate when I run for office every two years. That’s a term limit,” Brady said. “The reality is, if you do your job, and the people vote for you, I think that’s an endorsement of what you’re doing. With term limits, I don’t know that it’s doing anything more than insulting the intelligence of the electorate. That’s what I think about term limits.”
Blumenshine has made term limits the central issue of his campaign.
“Dan has done a lot for the 105th District. Dan’s a smart guy. He’s a good legislator,” Blumenshine said. “However, without term limits, and unfortunately Dan’s gotta be part of that, and it’s both sides of the aisle. We can’t ask for term limits on their side of the aisle and not impose it on our side.”
Brady and Blumenshine appeared at GLT’s debate at Illinois State’s University Galleries in Uptown Normal, in front of a standing room-only crowd. It was co-sponsored by the McLean County Republican Party and the McLean County League of Women Voters. GLT's Charlie Schlenker served as moderator.
Throughout the debate, Brady’s comments largely focused on legislation he’s passed or tried to get passed during his 17 years in office. He rattled off individual bill numbers from memory.
On pension reform, Brady said any future legislation needs to be pushed by rank-and-file members, rather than led by the speaker and governor. He said “we have to go back to the drawing board and bring up a pension bill that both sides can agree upon.”
Brady noted that Gov. Bruce Rauner and Madigan did seemingly agree on some version of the so-called pension shift, moving the cost of pensions onto the school districts and state universities themselves. Rauner pushed that in this year’s budget address.
“The only way that proposal is going to work is if it’s phased in over a much longer period of time (than the four years proposed by Rauner),” said Brady, a former McLean County coroner and funeral director. “What the governor has proposed is not something I can see myself supporting.”
Blumenshine said lawmakers haven’t been truthful about the massive scope of the state’s pension problems. But he stayed on message.
“We need term limits. We need new leadership,” Blumenshine said.
In the wake of the Florida shooting, both candidates said they preferred a more holistic approach to stopping school violence—beyond just more gun control.
Brady said he wants the state to focus more energy on the intersection of mental illness, psychotropic drugs, and potential mass shooters. He also said social service agencies and those dealing with mental health “usually take it on the chin” during the state’s budget stalemates.
In response to questions about gun control, Blumenshine said: “You’re trying to lay this at the feet of guns.”
“Yes, we need to look at gun violence in America, but more importantly we need to look at the breakdown of the family. Every one of those instances was a fatherless home,” said Blumenshine, who also said he opposed limits on semiautomatic weapons.
“Gun violence, that’s an issue. But I don’t think banning semiautomatic weapons is going to stop school shootings,” said Blumenshine, a real estate agent.
Brady is fighting to keep his 105th House District seat. That district includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, plus Lexington, Towanda, Hudson, and other communities.
The winner of the March 20 primary election would face Democrat Ben Webb, a high school teacher from Normal, in November.
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