Illinois’ 13th District Congressional Race Is Nearly Identical To 2018
If the 2020 race for Illinois' 13th congressional seat seems familiar, it’s because in many ways it is.
The contest is a rematch of 2018, when Republican incumbent Rodney Davis narrowly beat Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. And a number of the issues are the same in a race that is drawing interest from political observers outside the central Illinois district, which contains portions of the Metro East.
“This is going to be a really close contest,” said Ken Moffett, chair of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville’s political science department. “There’s a lot of money flowing in on both sides from nationwide sources.”
A lot of that attention is tied to the results from 2018, when Democratic congressional candidates picked up 41 seats, including two in Illinois.
They nearly had a third pickup in Illinois’ 13th district. Dirksen Londrigan came within 2,058 votes — less than a percentage point — of beating Davis. In 2014 and 2016, he defeated his challengers by nearly 20 percentage points.
The 2018 result helps Dirksen Londrigan, said John Jackson, a visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU.
“Challengers often have to spend the first months and a tremendous amount of money just getting their bio and introduction out. She starts with all that behind her,” he said. “The fact that she came within one percentage point is quite a good calling card.”
For his part, Davis welcomes the prospect of a tight race in 2020.
“I got energized by that, I like the fight,” he said. “I like to be able to talk about what I have done in fulfilling the promises I made to my constituents, when I first asked for their vote in 2012.”
The candidates are using mostly the same messaging they did in 2018, focusing the race around similar issues, like health care.
Dirksen Londrigan said that issue pushed her to return to the campaign trail this year.
“I got into the race to protect health care,” she said.
The two candidates agree America’s health care system needs reform, but that’s where their similarities on the topic end. Just like in 2018, Dirksen Londrigan is running on a platform that prioritizes affordable health care by strengthening and expanding the Affordable Care Act.
She said the ACA was a good first step for Americans, but some residents in her district face high insurance costs after health providers pulled out of regions of central Illinois.
She’s now pushing for a public option for Medicare, also known as Medicare-X, which gained traction during the Democratic presidential primary.
Davis criticizes the ACA for high costs that prohibit people either from enrolling or using their coverage. He wants to see a bipartisan fix.
Davis also wants the federal government to subsidize the employer side of health care costs for people who may have lost a job during the pandemic.
“It makes sure you keep your same doctors and you keep your same medical treatment plan,” he said. “Why would we tell people in this district or anywhere in America, ‘You’ve lost your job, now go sign up for Medicaid. Go sign up for the ACA plan where you’re not going to be able to afford the premium.’”
Moffett said he thinks the race will come down to two national issues.
“Donald Trump and the pandemic,” he said.
Davis has endorsed the president for reelection.
On the pandemic, Davis would like to review how the country prepares for the next pandemic, specifically addressing failings around the national stockpile of emergency supplies.
Dirksen Londrigan wants Congress to reextend unemployment benefits and distribute more Paycheck Protection Program funding to workers who are struggling because of the pandemic.
This congressional race, and so many others across the country, serve as a proxy for the national race for the White House, Moffett said.
“Congressional elections in the last 20 years have become much more nationalized than what they used to be,” he said. “That’s really a trend as far as congressional elections go.”
The candidates in Illinois’ 13th district are tied to those at the top of the ticket. Jackson explained the two cannot be decoupled.
“You just can’t separate that this is like every other congressional election,” he said. “It’s a nationalized race and can’t be avoided.”