Three candidates vie for 115th district

By Gus Bode

Medical malpractice, university tuition among election issues

While Southern Illinois residents face controversial issues such as medical malpractice suits, student-related issues and same-sex benefits, the candidates for the 115th District will spend the next four days pushing their respective agendas.

Voters have three candidates to choose from:an incumbent Republican, a self-described youthful Democrat and a trend-setting Green Party candidate. Their strategies for change are as different as the parties they represent.


For example, medical malpractice suits have left some Illinois doctors crossing state lines in search of cheaper insurance rates. As a result, these same doctors will leave their patients behind, forcing them to seek care from other physicians.

Each of the candidates agreed malpractice insurance rates are a serious problem in the Illinois.

Rep. Mike Bost, co-sponsored a 1995 tort reform law that puts caps on malpractice suits, but the Illinois Supreme Court later ruled the legislation was unconstitutional. Part of the problem, said the Murphysboro Republican, stems from the state’s Democrat-controlled court system.

“Not only are we losing our doctors, but we’re losing business and all the economic growth is going out the window with them,” Bost said.

For Democratic candidate Mic Middleton, insurance reform – not tort reform – is an answer to the malpractice dilemma. A few cases, he added, are potentially changing the medical industry for the worse.

“If we really study the nuts and bolts of this issue, the industry is price gauging all doctors – even the good ones – for the mistakes of bad doctors,” Middleton said.

The skyrocketing insurance rates are a part of a larger problem – the number of uninsured Illinoisans – said Green Party Candidate Rich Whitney. Universal health care and a single provider, he added, would eliminate many of the problems facing the state and nation.


“This is also an attack on the jury system, which is one of the hallmarks of American democracy,” Whitney said. “The United States is the only country in the world that puts such faith in citizen juries.”

Rising tuition costs are major concerns for many college students and their parents. Undergraduate students at SIUC are facing a 7.9 percent tuition increase next year.

Lower tuition costs are contingent upon the state’s business growth and a revenue neutral shift from property taxes to another form of taxation, Bost said.

As an SIUC alumnus, Middleton said he would like to increase the University’s student body by attracting an additional 10,000 students to the campus. He said this change could improve the University’s status, as well as bring revenue to the area.

The question of whether to allow same-sex marriages has crept onto the ballots in some states. Illinoisans, however, will not have to worry about voting on the issue on Election Day. Earlier this year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the state should keep the current law barring same-sex marriages, while prohibiting landlords and employers from discriminating against homosexuals. The University was up in arms this semester as well, after Chancellor Walter Wendler said homosexual relationships were sinful. Wendler later retracted his statements.

Both Bost and Middleton said the institution of marriage should remain between a man and a woman, while Whitney said the state should make civil unions available to everyone while the religious institution of marriage should be left up to the church.

“If done that way, every religion would be free to determine what marriage means to its own religion,” Whitney said. “Let’s get the government out of churches, and let’s get the churches out of government.”