CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Three hot button topics encapsulate the election cycle this fall: economy, crime, and abortion rights.
These are three topics we’re diving into with our State Senate candidates for Illinois’ 46th District.
First is incumbent State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). Sen. Koehler has been in the State Senate since 2006. He tells WMBD’s Matt Sheehan Illinois is in a strong financial state, and the future looks bright.
“I’d really like to harken back to 4 years ago, when we were $16 billion in debt. Today we’re paying our bills on time. Illinois has made great strides in terms of correction the economic conditions we were in,” Koehler said. “We’ve had a wonderful budget year this last year. We were able to not only pay off all our medical bills that were past due, almost $1 billion. We were able to put $1 billion into a rainy day fund, give back to taxpayers $1.8 billion, and put half a billion dollars into the pension payment. That’s why we have six credit upgrades.”
Republican candidate Desi Anderson tells a different story. She said Illinoisans’ financial hardships are top of mind from voters she’s spoken with.
“So many folks are telling me at the door, ‘I can’t even pay my utility bill, I’m so behind on paying those bills. And we’re worried what this winter is going to look like for us. That’s a real concern. Groceries are still expensive, you’ve got the gas that’s still high,” Anderson said. “A lot hasn’t changed in that sense. People are still hurting.”
Anderson said she is also an advocate for repealing the SAFE-T Act.
“You now have 60 State’s Attorneys across Illinois suing the current Administration. That’s out of frustration, for them not having a seat at the table. Saying, ‘hey, this is not the right approach to address the issues,'” Anderson said. “We’ve got to repeal this legislation. It’s not the way to combat the crime. We’ve got to continue to support our law enforcement, work with community leaders, and have a multi-pronged approach to this.”
Sen. Koehler voted in favor of the sweeping criminal justice reform bill. He said while he stands by the bill today, he does admit revisions need to be made.
“We do need to make some changes. But let’s remember, the premise of the SAFE-T Act is the Supreme Court’s Commission on Pre-Trial Fairness,” Sen. Koehler said.
On Jan. 1, cash bail will eliminated in the State of Illinois.
Sen. Koehler said he supports this, stating money shouldn’t be the deciding factor on who gets out of jail or not while awaiting trial.
“We passed this bill some time ago. All of a sudden, it’s election time, and it becomes an issue. Fear is a very motivating factor, and that’s why you’re seeing so much noise about this right now,” said Koehler. “I tell people, it’s a matter of do you want people to be out on the street because they have money in their pocket? You take two people that are involved in domestic violence and take them to jail, one gets out one doesn’t. What’s the difference? The difference is money. I would rather have a judge determine whether this person is a flight risk or whether they’re a risk to themselves or their community.”
Koehler said the average stay of someone in jail who can’t afford cash bail is 34 days.
“That means job loss, that means strife on families,” Koehler said.
On the topic of abortion rights, each candidate takes a different stance, for the most part.
Anderson is pro-life with exceptions of rape, incest, or health of the mother.
She told WMBD that her personal story has an immense impact on her stance today.
“I was abandoned in the streets when I was 10 days old. I was left to die in Bulgaria and was raised in an orphanage for almost 8 years of my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity of life,” Anderson said.
Sen. Koehler told WMBD he is pro-choice and supports the laws now in Illinois.
“I think that that decision needs to be made by the woman involved and not by government,” said Koehler. “And I think that Illinois being a safe haven for women is something we can be very proud of.”
But both candidates do agree on one thing in the conversation of abortion rights.
“Do I believe in taxpayer funded abortions? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, there’s cases, special cases, that woman is going to have to make a hard decision. That will be done with her and her doctors,” Anderson said.
Koehler said he does not support taxpayer funds paying for out of state individuals to come in state for abortions, but stressed the need for safety.
“I remember the horror stories of cases of women dying because of back alley butchers trying to perform abortions. Abortion needs to be done in a safe environment, and it needs to be the decision of the women and her physician,” Koehler said.
Koehler said his focus, if re-elected, is continuing to build a strong economy.
“I’d like to see more collaboration between the communities as well,” he said. There’s so much synergy between Bloomington-Normal and Peoria that we need to capture.”
Anderson said there’s a lot at stake this election, and her campaign is feeling a lot of optimism this fall.
“We’ve left everything on the field to get our message out. The message of hope and change is possible here in a week,” she said.
The general election is on Nov. 8.