PI Original Jon Graef Tuesday October 16th, 2012, 3:43pm

Undecided Voters On The Minds Of Candidates In Tight 13th Congressional District Race

In Illinois’ 13th Congressional District Race, one of the closest in the state, a recent poll of 400 likely voters found Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat David Gill to be one percentage point apart, just weeks before the November 6 election. We offer a closer look at the race.

In Illinois’ 13th Congressional District Race, one of the closest in the state, a recent poll of 400 likely voters found Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat David Gill to be one percentage point apart, just weeks before the November 6 election.

Gill, an emergency room doctor, earned 40 percent of the total vote, while Davis, a former projects director for Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), earned 39 percent. Eight percent of voters supported Independent candidate John Hartman, the Chief Financial Officer of DNA Polymerase Technology, Inc.

The remaining 13 percent of voters are undecided.

On October 24, Davis, Gill and Hartman will all participate in an hour-long debate sponsored by the Citizens Club of Springfield, WICS Channel 20 and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. The debate will air live and will be livestreamed from the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Ahead of the debate, Gill and Hartman gave Progress Illinois separate interviews on how they’ll engage undecided voters. (Candidate Davis could not be reached.)

Gill says there are so many undecided voters because many of the district's constituents are simply unfamiliar with the candidates due to the “newly carved” 13th district.

To reach the those voters, Gill, who has received recent endorsements from Illinois Planned Parenthood, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, says he’ll directly challenge misconceptions inspired by frequent political advertisements from the organizations that back Davis.

“We’ll bring them up front and center, these lying commercials from Rodney Davis,” Gill said. 

The Democrat says one particular Davis ad accuses him of ending Medicare through his support of the Affordable Care Act, adding that the message's sentiment is false.

“As a doctor for 24 years, I’ve seen Medicare save thousands of lives, and I would never gut such a wonderful program,” Gill said.

Another contrast Gill plans to make between himself and Davis is that Gill says he does not take money from special interest groups, whereas Davis does.

Some $3 million has been spent so far in the 13th Congressional District race, with sixty percent of that sum going toward anti-Gill attack ads. Gill says the spending comes from four political groups: the National Republican Congressional Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network, and the New Prosperity Foundation.

By contrast, anti-Davis groups have spent almost $950,000 in the 13th Congressional District race. More than 90 percent of that money has come from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Gill does not mince words when it comes to criticizing Davis.

“This election is a microcosm of Citizens United. They’re trying to steal our democracy, these corporate interests,” Gill said.

“As undecideds make their choice, they’re going to have to ask themselves: Is the gas company my friend? Is my insurance company my friend? Are drug companies my friend?” Gill said.

“He’s spent millions of dollars on attack ads. There’s a big difference between him and me,” Gill said.

While Gill himself takes money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, another candidate in the 13th district is even stricter when it comes to accepting campaign contributions.

Independent candidate John Hartman says he is only accepting contributions of $20 or less, and is only taking money from private citizens.

“That way, everybody knows where the money is coming from,” he said.

Hartman says political reform in Washington is a key issue for him, and that one state in particular has provided a roadmap for future campaigns.

The Independent candidate pointed to Connecticut's Citizens’ Election Program, designed to limit the role of private money in the state’s elections.

Candidates who collected contributions in small sums of $100 or less, with a significant amount coming from the borders within their district, would see a modest match of those funds by the state. 

“If we did a program like that, it would give the voters a hammer to hold over the candidates,” Hartman said. “I would suggest we try that model on the state and national level.”

As an Independent, Hartman says he will act “responsibly and reasonably” and, if elected, says he hopes to be part of a wave of dozens of incoming Independent candidates over the next two decades — a development he believes would change politics for the better.

“It would completely transform politics. I think that if we could get that many Independents in the House and Senate, it would be the biggest improvement for our democracy since women were given the right to vote,” Hartman said. “People will believe in their democracy again.”

Speaking in favor of the Affordable Care Act, having the “wisdom and maturity” to respect China’s emergence as a superpower and in his hopes of combating climate change through cap-and-trade agreements, taxes on emissions and tax credits, Hartman says he is reaching out to undecided voters in the same way he’s connected with the district's constituents since the state of his campaign in March.

“For me, it’s all about the issues, and articulating what’s wrong, and what needs to be done to make things better,” he said. 

Davis has outlined his views on issues like tax policy and gay marriage, stating that he would like to see a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman. He does not favor increasing taxes on the rich and would like to get rid of certain energy tax credits. Davis has earned the endorsement of the Illinois Federation of Right to Life political action committee, the Chicago Tribune (you can read his candidate questionnaire responses for the paper here), and the National Rifle Association.

Davis Image: AP

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