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Democrat George Petrilli Pushes Health Care, Student Loan Forgiveness In Bid Against Darin LaHood

George Petrilli
Democrat George Petrilli is an attorney from Springfield who was named to the ballot over the summer.

A Democrat making a longshot bid against U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood says their district is gerrymandered in such a way that voters never get to truly hash out the issues with their candidates.

The 18th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, and Springfield. Unlike the 13th District just next door, the 18th is not considered competitive in this election. LaHood, a Peoria Republican, beat his last Democratic opponent in 2018 by 34 percentage points. The 18th District may not even survive post-2020 Census redistricting.

This year LaHood will face Democrat George Petrilli, an attorney from Springfield who was named to the ballot over the summer. LaHood did not respond to repeated requests for a WGLT interview or a joint forum with Petrilli.

“When you have one party or the other that knows they can always win a district, you’re never gonna get the full attention of that elected official on the issues, because they have no motivation to do so,” Petrilli said.

Petrilli said one of his top priorities is expanding opportunity in rural parts of the district. He said that goal is very much intertwined with health care.

“Health care is a bottleneck on the economy,” Petrilli said. “People that want to build, expand, or start businesses, or change jobs or careers, are really held back by the idea of losing health care or losing coverage on pre-existing conditions for themselves or their families.”

Petrilli said he wants to move to a universal, or single-payer, health care system, although not immediately.

“I don’t believe a for-profit health care system works at all. I don’t believe it has a place in our economy,” he said. “You can see it in rural areas. You can see it in low-income areas. You’ll see the level of care is not the same, and it will never be the same, because those areas will never be as profitable.”

Petrilli said another issue he’d like to tackle is student loan debt. He said he wants to expand loan forgiveness programs to include more professions across the country. Teachers weighed down by student debt could tutor other kids after school and be “paid” through loan forgiveness, he said.

“That investment into society, into social programs, into giving people access to your talent and education, would reap huge benefits, all over the country,” Petrilli said.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.