Shimkus Faces Abortion Opponent in Re-Drawn 15th District
By Jeff Bossert
Republican Congressman John Shimkus is seeking a 9th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But this time, he has doing so in a newly-drawn 15th district, which stretches from portions of Champaign and Iroquois Counties in the north, to the state’s southern tip, and also stretches southwest from Douglas County in central Illinois to Madison County communities near the Metro East of St. Louis.
Shimkus was elected to Congress back in 1996. He has now experienced redistricting twice, in 2000 and again in 2010.
Shimkus ran unopposed in the Republican primary this spring. But he faces a general election challenge from radio talk show host and retired nurse Angela Michael of Highland, Illinois.
Michaels, who has 13 children, has focused her campaign primarily on one issue - abortions.
While Michaels is running as a Democrat, she does not necessarily subscribe to much of the Democratic platform. She is vehemently against abortions, and she is critical of provisions within the Affordable Care Act that cover birth control.
Interviewed by Illinois Public Media in late March, she said it’s an insult that taxpayers should foot the bill for what she terms ‘immoral behavior.’
“If they want contraceptives, they should be able to pay for their own," she said. "I believe it’s only $9 to buy birth control bills. So, I don't understand. You can afford cigarettes, you can afford a bag of chips, I mean – you can’t afford contraception – why do taxpayers have to pay for your birth control? I don’t understand that.’
Shimkus said he believes it is important to empower people to take a more active role in their own preventive care.
“You've got to incentive people to wellness," he said. "The best way to do that is encouraging their understanding of health insurance and its cost. Really encourage them to actively be participant in healthy lifestyles. Now the question is, can the government do that? I doubt that. We're too big, we talk too much, we're very inefficient."
Nevertheless, there are portions of the Affordable Care Act that Congressman Shimkus favors.
“You’ve heard the debate on the ore-existing conditions- capitation, young adults on policies, those are all things we can agree upon," he said.
Michael calls herself the "citizen’s candidate," saying taxpayers should not fund the health care of others.
“We had a chance when the Bush administration was here – we had a Republican House, Republican Senate – and I don’t understand - we needed to cut off funding - $350 million – that’s still being sent and still being sent to Planned Parenthood," she said. "It’s ridiculous that taxpayers don’t know what they’re supporting with their taxes."
Illinois Public Media tried to interview Michael more recently. However, she didn't return any calls after four attempts in reaching her. Congressman Shimkus said he has had no contact with Michael.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Democrats in Madison County, where she lives, had no comment about her. Matthew Pidgeon said redistricting has made it hard for party officials to find candidates to run in the district.
Shimkus said Congress faces a tall order after the election. Though legislators have reached across the aisle over matters ranging from the debt ceiling to highway construction, many important issues remain to be dealt with after November 6th.
Shimkus is concerned that ‘across the board’ cuts could adversely affect funding for some of the nation’s poorest public schools. He also said Congress must pass a new Farm Bill, but obstacles to doing so exist on both sides of the aisle.
“So that’s part of the educational thing that I have to do," he said. "Some of my liberal colleagues who have problems with the reforms we have in the food nutrition, SNAP program – LINK card as it’s called in Illinois, and my conservative friends who think there probably should be limited, if any role, in farm policy by the national government.”
Shimkus admits the new 15th Congressional District is big, requiring a lot of travel from his home in Collinsville. Although Shimkus is facing an apparent ‘one issue candidate,’ he is still campaigning throughout the district.