13th congressional district candidates discuss economy, student financial aid

By Eleanor Black

Candidates running for the 13th congressional district met Thursday night for a public forum to discuss both national and local issues.
The forum began with the Republican candidates Michael Firsching, a veterinarian from Midway, and Erika Harold, an attorney from Champaign and former Miss America, running against incumbent Rodney Davis who could not attend the event. 
If elected as representative, Firsching said he would focus on the federal reserve system, one of his major concerns that he believes has not been serving its purpose of protecting Americans and their money. He also said he will focus on balancing the budget. 
Harold said she would also focus on reducing the national debt, reforming the current healthcare system and increasing awareness of civil liberties. She noted her concern for the role of the NSA in Americans’ lives and said that “we need to make sure that our government is not encroaching into our liberties in ways that ultimately undermine our freedoms.”
While Harold said she would not cut funding for Federal Pell Grants, Firsching said increased education costs is due to federal aid, in regards to student loans.
There were also disagreements regarding social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Harold said she is pro-life and believes marriage is between a man and a woman. But Firsching said that such issues have no place in the governmental sphere.
“I’m a person who believes that a slim majority should not mandating values on a minority,” he said. “Anytime you pass laws that invalidate civil liberties, you better have a large consensus of agreement that this needs to be done.”
The candidates generally agreed on national issues, such as infrastructure funding and immigration reform, and they both opposed an increase in the minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic candidates
The three democratic candidates, David Green, who works at the University’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs; George Gollin, a physics professor at the University; and Ann Callis a former judge from Edwardsville, discussed many of the same issues raised during the Republican debate.
In terms of priorities, Green said he wants to bring troops home and end the war on drugs, while Gollin focused on job creation in the 13th district. Callis also named job creation as a priority, as well as protecting Social Security and ending income inequality. 
On the issue of education, Green said he believed it should be free for everyone, while Gollin stated the importance of giving teachers respect and said community college is key in the discussion of more affordable education. 
Callis supported an increase in Pell Grants, as well as Senator Durbin’s student “bill of rights,” which would protect those with student loans.
The three also discussed the possibility of volunteer, community or military service to help forgive student loans. Gollin and Callis supported the idea as a voluntary measure, while Green opposed the idea as a method of working off debt.
“I don’t accept the assumption that students should be graduating from school in debt. National service is a fine idea, but it shouldn’t be another way of exploiting the labor of young people,” he said. “They should be paid a fair wage, a high minimum wage, a living wage for the work they do.”
All agreed on social issues like same-sex marriage, a carbon tax to aid with climate change and immigration reform, though Callis didn’t say she was in favor of a carbon tax. The candidates supported Durbin’s reform, though both Green and Gollin mentioned that it wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start.
The event will be rebroadcast before the March 18 primaries, though the date has not been set.
Eleanor can be reached at [email protected].
Editor’s note: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated Ann Callis supports a carbon tax. She does not support a carbon tax. In addition, the article didn’t explain why David Green opposed students working off debt through volunteer work. The part of the article has since been clarified. The Daily Illini regrets the errors.