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A question of record

Smiddy criticizes Morthland’s stance on veterans issues

STERLING – Mike Smiddy is “cherry-picking” facts, his opponent said Thursday.

As Smiddy, a Democrat from Hillsdale, campaigns to replace state Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, in the redrawn 71st House District, he told a small group of Sauk Valley veterans and other interested residents where he stands on veterans issues.

He also criticized Morthland’s record.

In an info sheet drawn up specifically for Thursday’s event, Smiddy outlined three ways that, he says, Morthland has not supported veterans.

First on the list: “Rep. Rich Morthland’s Tea Party allies have come up with a budget-busting plan to give a $394,000 tax break to wealthy citizens and finance that tax break by cutting veterans’ benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs vital to veterans and seniors. That would mean that facilities like the Community Based VA Outpatient Clinic here in Sterling might shut down entirely.”

“He’s really grasping with that first thing,” Morthland said in a phone interview after the event. “You’re talking, No.1, about federal stuff and, No. 2, not about me.”

As far as Morthland is aware, there are no plans to close the Sterling clinic.

Next, Smiddy’s release criticized Morthland for voting against a bill, HB 4983, which would have made it easier for veterans who received the Afghan or Iraqi campaign medal to become a police officer with the Department of Natural Resources by waiving the college requirements.

Morthland agrees that he did vote against the bill when it came before the House the first time because, he said, he thought it was too exclusive.

Limiting the waiver to veterans who have received one of those campaign medals would have meant only veterans who “stepped foot on those soils” would have benefited.

When an expanded version of the bill came back before the House, Morthland voted for it.

Smiddy’s final criticism of Morthland’s record concerned HB3276, a bill that would create a Women’s Veterans Task Force charged with looking into the needs of female veterans. Morthland, who serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee, was absent during the vote.

Morthland explained that he was likely in another committee hearing; such hearings are often scheduled at the same time.

Votes on the Veterans Affairs Committee are often unanimous, which it was in this case, so he wasn’t as worried about missing the vote as he would be about other committees he sits on, he said.

One attendee of Smiddy’s Thursday question-and-answer session at the American Legion in Sterling wasn’t terribly impressed, but she said definitively that Smiddy, a Democrat, will get her vote.

The Rock Falls resident went to the meeting with her husband, Dennis, who served in the U.S. Army for 12 years and was deployed during the First Gulf War.

He’s been working temporary jobs since the Johnson Controls plant in Dixon closed in 2009, and for the Wilburns, finding work for veterans should be the No. 1 priority.

Who are your candidates?

The redrawn 71st House District includes parts of Rock Island, Whiteside, Henry and Carroll counties. The incumbent, state Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, faces Mike Smiddy, a Democrat from Hillsdale.

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