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Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:01 am

Two challenge rookie congressman

Erika Harold of Urbana is running against incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Michael Firsching of Moro in the Congressional District 13 Republican primary.


Although it may not be easy for a Republican to win a congressional district drawn by Democrats, the 13th District GOP candidates all want that chance in the fall election.

On March 18, Republican voters will get to choose between three primary contenders to represent Illinois’ 13th District for the U.S. House of Representatives. They are incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Erika Harold of Urbana and Michael Firsching of Moro, near Edwardsville.

Davis, who is serving his second year in Washington, won the general election in 2012 after beating Democrat candidate David Gill by 1,002 votes, less than .5 percent of the overall vote total.

Davis says he’s proud of many things he’s done during his short time in office. He voted for the Farm Bill, which he brags saved taxpayers $23 billion in cuts. That bill included cuts to the program traditionally known as food stamps, which Davis said he thinks should include a requirement that certain adults who are not disabled nor have children should have to work for the food assistance through outlets such as community service. His proposal was not included in the legislation.

All three of the GOP candidates say they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare.” Davis is also proposing reforms. He has proposed a resolution to exempt small businesses from having to count veterans who receive health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs toward their overall number of employees.

Davis said he also thinks the ACA should be replaced with a plan that assures people with preexisting conditions are covered. He also thinks there should be a system that does not have lifetime caps and he thinks insurance should be able to be sold across state lines.

While Davis didn’t specify what reforms he would support for Medicare or Social Security, he said he would like to see plans to ensure both programs are maintained and that options for Medicare are expanded.

“I want Social Security as we know it to be around for future generations,” he said.

Erika Harold, a Chicago attorney from Champaign who was Miss America in 2003, wants the Social Security benefit age of eligibility to be raised for younger workers who are not close to retirement. She supports a “hardship exemption,” however, that would allow those who work in more physically demanding jobs to retire earlier. For current retirees, she said, benefits should not be changed.

While Rep. Davis voted for this year’s budget, Harold said she would have voted against it because she thinks it was a “status quo” budget and she is opposed to the cut to veterans’ pension benefits.

Harold hasn’t raised nearly as much campaign money as Davis and she doesn’t have the campaign advantage of being an incumbent. She was, however, endorsed by the  Chicago Tribune, and the Conservative Political Action Committee recently named her one of America’s top 10 conservatives under 40.

“I believe the fact that I come from outside the political establishment puts me in the unique place to be able to go and make some of the tough decisions and tough votes that are necessary,” she said.

Harold isn’t the only candidate who comes to the election without experience in Congress. Candidate Michael Firsching, a veterinarian from Madison County, is making his third run for Congress.

Firsching calls himself an independent. He’s campaigning on the general idea that the federal government is too powerful and too invasive. He said he thinks the Supreme Court is wrong in deciding the ACA is constitutional. He said if ACA is not repealed people should be able to opt out. Likewise, he said he thinks individuals should be given the option of whether to contribute to Social Security.

Firsching, who is passionate about economics, thinks that it is not the government’s job to create jobs. He thinks the government should protect citizens against certain market practices such as fraud, but there should be limited involvement. He is against tax credits and subsidizing corporations. He wants to eliminate the Federal Reserve and he is against the Farm Bill because he thinks it’s unconstitutional for the government to be involved in agriculture.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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