The environment, including climate change, along with maintaining and expanding healthcare coverage were among the top issues for attendees at Tuesday's GLT Candidates Forum for the five Democrats looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis.
Those candidates include Jonathan Ebel, David Gill, Erik Jones, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, and Angel Sides. They appeared at GLT’s Candidate Forum at the Normal Theater. They fielded questions about gun control, the environment, infrastructure improvements, the deficit, and whether creating a path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. illegally is worth a government shutdown.
Before the forum, attendee Susan Kalter had a long list of things that are important to her as she prepares to vote in the March 20 primary.
"I'm pretty concerned about the Russia issue, and I would like to know that my representative is also concerned about it. I'm concerned about the environment," Kalter said.
She added that she's not opposed to every piece of the new tax plan, but she's worried it's going to disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
Kalter, like several others at the forum, is also concerned about keeping the Affordable Care Act.
"I don't want to see that destroyed. It's already being dismantled by the recent votes," she said.
Gary Klass wants to see candidates who are willing to compromise.
"We really need to get rid of the partisanship," he said. "It's wrecking our country right now."
After the forum, he was asked if he liked what he heard.
"I don't think they're ready to compromise, but I'm still hopeful," said Klass.
When asked if he saw a frontrunner, Klass named Jones and Londrigan. He liked Londrigan's position on healthcare.
"She wants to move in steps, I thought I heard her say, and that kinda makes sense."
He thought Jones was likable.
"He seems like a reasonable guy. I was kind of impressed with his personality," said Klass, who thinks anyone who is elected needs to move to the center where he believes many voters stand on issues such as immigration and healthcare.
Several college students attended the forum, which was co-sponsored by the Illinois State University College Democrats.
Alyssa York, an ISU student studying political science, is concerned about rising college tuition, the environment, healthcare, and poverty. York said all five candidates said what she wanted to hear.
"They all talked about very progressive issues, and I think (the 13th Congressional District) with any Democrat will be in good shape," she said.
York said she was also surprised by the collegiality among the candidates, as was Lori Adams.
Adams and her partner John Stark watched the forum live at the Normal Theater for the first time. Typically they listen on the radio. Adams said it was a great experience to see how the candidates interacted with each other and to hear, in some cases, candidates making light-hearted comments.
"Wasn't it refreshing?" she asked rhetorically. "Someone at the table would say something and the other would nod in agreement instead of it being so fractured and so hostile. They were all good candidates. I'm really pleased with the caliber."
"I think it's going to be a hard choice going into the voting booth, but I think this helped cleared it up a bit and introduced me to new people I didn't know about," he said.
Before the forum, Stark indicated he was concerned about the environment and immigration. In the past, Stark said he voted for Gill. On Tuesday he said Ebel, a University of Illinois religion professor, stood out.
"He became a human to me in terms of how he presented himself, and he speaks well."
Stark also liked Jones, a former assistant Illinois attorney general.
"Both of them were well-rounded in their answers and what they projected in the room, and I was really glad I was here in person," he said.
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