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Abortion and COVID-19 are among the many dividing lines for 13th Congressional candidates

13th Congressional candidates Nikki Budzinski (D) and Regan Deering (R) face off during a debate in Illinois Public Media studios on Oct. 6, 2022.

URBANA — The two women running for Congress to represent Illinois’ 13th Congressional District differ in their approaches to abortion, the COVID-19 pandemic and more. 

Republican candidate Regan Deering and Democratic candidate Nikki Budzinski highlighted their differences on Thursday night during a debate hosted by Illinois Public Media, WAND News and the League of Women Voters of Champaign County. 

The newly-redrawn 13th Congressional District stretches from Champaign to St. Louis and includes Decatur and Springfield. According to the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, the 13th district leans Democratic.


Deering supports the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. She says she is opposed to a nationwide ban on abortion, because she says states should be able to make their own abortion laws.

Deering opposes the right of minors in Illinois to get an abortion without notifying their parents. She says she can’t imagine being locked out of that process as a parent. Those who worked to repeal a previous law requiring parent notification say it harmed those in unstable and unsafe home situations.

Budzinski supports abortion rights. She describes abortion as a dividing issue between herself and Deering. 

COVID-19 response

Budzinski lauds the Biden administration’s response the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Budzinski, the federal government ensured that citizens had access to vaccines, kids were able to rejoin school safely and small businesses received financial support. 

Budzinski criticizes the Trump administration for a lack of federal response to the pandemic. She says that due to this lack of response, citizens weren’t able to get vaccines or protective equipment. Budzinski stresses the importance of preparing now for the next pandemic. 

Deering says that citizens will continue to feel the effects of the shutdowns during the pandemic for more than a decade. Deering says she advocated against “government overreach” in her children’s schools. Deering opposed mask mandates when students returned to school in the fall of 2021. 

Student debt

Budzinski is critical of the recent student loan forgiveness plan announced by President Joe Biden. She says she is concerned about how to pay for the initiative. 

Budzinski emphasizes the importance of two-year community colleges and union apprenticeship programs. She says a four-year college degree is not the only pathway to the middle class.

“I worked in the labor movement, so I had the opportunity to visit and see firsthand what it means to go through a union apprenticeship program,” Budzinski says. “Giving people the skills they need without saddling them with debt is important.”

She says students should be able to refinance loans for their college degrees. 

Deering says she disagrees with the Biden administration’s loan forgiveness plan. She says it is unfair for students who either didn’t take out a loan or paid off their loans already. 

Cannabis legalization

Deering says she is opposed to legalizing marijuana nationally and calls marijuana a gateway drug.

“So we want to make sure we are eliminating people that are going to be drug users and then potentially having crime,” says Deering.

She adds that marijuana does increase tax revenues for Central Illinois. 

Budzinski says the federal government should recalibrate how it prosecutes offenses. She says the federal government treats cocaine-related charges as less severe than medical marijuana.

This statement from Budzinski is not true, at least when comparing mandatory minimum sentences. While courts are required to sentence someone possessing 500 grams of cocaine to at least five years in prison, someone would need to possess 100 kilograms of marijuana to trigger the same mandatory minimum. 

Immigration across the U.S-Mexico border

Budzinski supports expanding legal pathways to citizenship for those trying to immigrate into the U.S. from its border with Mexico.

Budzinski points to a 2013 framework approved by the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as an example of divided groups working out an agreement on the issue. The agreement both expanded the number of guest workers legally allowed into the country and allowed those workers to petition for permanent status. 

Deering says the federal government should focus on using resources for existing residents. She says she supports former President Donald Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while the U.S. processed their cases. She also supports the Title 42 health order, which Trump used to expel migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic and which President Joe Biden tried to end in May of this year.

Spending on support for Ukraine in the Ukraine-Russia war

Deering says that United States is a country that values sovereignty and hence has a vested interest in supporting Ukraine during Russia’s invasion of the country. 

Adopting a more cautionary tone, Deering says that during her campaign trail many families from the 13th Congressional District expressed concern over the tax dollars being sent to Ukraine. Deering says Congress should set limitations on the dollars being sent to Ukraine. 

Budzinski says that although Congress should be careful in its spending on the war, it should also make sure that the United States stands up against Russian President Vladimir Putin and with the Ukrainian people. She says that the U.S. should look into making investments to boost domestic energy production in order to avoid dependence on people like Putin.

Community gun violence

Deering says the answer to preventing community violence is to fund police departments. 

Budzinski says she supports gun regulation — as well as afterschool programs to give young people safe places to be.

Watch the full debate below.

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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