Democratic House challenger invokes Ginsburg in new campaign ad

Spot for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan says Rep. Rodney Davis would ‘gut’ health care protections

House members don’t vote on Supreme Court nominations, but the Democratic opponent of Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis references Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in a new attack ad against him. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House members don’t vote on Supreme Court nominations, but the Democratic opponent of Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis references Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in a new attack ad against him. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 25, 2020 at 6:00am

Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who is challenging Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, is launching an ad Friday that invokes the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ties the Supreme Court fight to her party’s broader push on health care.  

“A nation mourns, and your health care is at risk,” the narrator says as the ad pans to a black-and-white photograph of Ginsburg. “A Supreme Court controlled by Donald Trump could overturn the Affordable Care Act by the end of this year. Rodney Davis won’t help us. He votes with Trump and the drug and insurance industries that gave him over $770,000.” 

Although Ginsburg’s death has already infused pivotal Senate races with new campaign cash and an urgency to mobilize voters, Dirksen Londrigan’s ad, part of a six-figure buy, is among the first for a House candidate to draw on the fight over the justice’s replacement, linking it with Democrats’ dominant message of expanding health care coverage. Senators, of course, vote on judicial nominations, while House members do not.

The race for the 13th District in Central Illinois represents a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats and is a rematch from 2018, when Davis defeated Dirksen Londrigan by 1 point. Recent polling shows a similar close race heading into Election Day, with Davis considered among the House’s most vulnerable members. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilt Republican.  

The new ad says Davis voted multiple times to “gut” protections for people with preexisting medical conditions. It’s a message that Democrats have used in other competitive races, including against GOP Reps. John Katko of New York and Ann Wagner of Missouri. 

“With the fate of the Affordable Care Act now more uncertain than ever, we can’t trust Rodney Davis to protect our health care,” Dirksen Londrigan campaign spokeswoman Eliza Glezer said. “We need representatives like Betsy Dirksen Londrigan who will fight to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.”

A spokesman for the Davis campaign said the ad mischaracterizes the four-term Republican’s voting record on health care, noting that Davis voted for a measure by Illinois Democrat Lauren Underwood that would stop the Justice Department from spending federal money on litigation that undermines the 2010 health care law. 

“Rodney has been abundantly clear about his support to maintain coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions,” spokesman Aaron DeGroot said in a statement.

Davis’ wife is a colon cancer survivor, and the congressman marked 21 years since her last chemotherapy treatment with a speech on the House floor Thursday. “The issue of making sure pre-existing condition coverage is protected is personal to him,” DeGroot said.

The Davis campaign also released a recent health care-focused ad that said Dirksen Londrigan supports a government-run insurance plan. 

The Democrat backs expanding the 2010 health care law and creating a public option.

Dirksen Londrigan had $2.2 million in the bank as of June 30, while Davis disclosed $1.9 million in his campaign account. Outside groups have spent close to $1 million against Davis, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee the biggest spender.  

The new Dirksen Londrigan ad will run on digital platforms as well as broadcast TV and cable in the media markets of Champaign, Springfield, Decatur and Peoria.

Trump carried the 13th District by 5 points in 2016, but recent internal polling by Dirksen Londrigan’s campaign had former Vice President Joe Biden up by near double digits and the House race essentially tied.  

Democratic groups, including the DCCC and its Senate counterpart, reiterated the party’s messaging on health care in a memo Thursday. 

“We’re going to keep reminding voters of Republicans’ toxic efforts to gut their health care over the final weeks of this election,” the memo from the chiefs of those groups said.

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