SPRINGFIELD — One of Democratic congressional candidate David Gill’s newest television ads focuses on a 39-year-old woman named “Susan” who he says died of a heart attack because she lacked health insurance.
But a review of the emergency room doctor’s past campaign material shows the story about “Susan” isn’t necessarily new. And it’s not clear who “Susan” really is.
In a 2006 campaign video produced when Gill was making an unsuccessful bid for Congress in Illinois’ 15th District, he told a similar story about a 39-year-old person who died of a heart attack that may have been prevented had they been covered by health insurance.
But in the 2006 telling — and in another version published on a blog in 2009 — the subject of the story was a man, not a woman named “Susan.”
That has raised questions from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports Gill’s opponent, Rodney Davis of Taylorville, in the race for the 13th Congressional District seat.
“Health care is a serious issue. David Gill appears to be manipulating the facts to justify his support of government-run health care. Let’s stick to the facts and try to not mislead the voter,” NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said in an email Friday.
Gill deputy campaign manager Tom Alte said Gill can’t discuss the specifics of who the person really is because of doctor-patient confidentiality policies.
But, Alte said, “She was a real person.”
“I don’t know for a fact that her name is Susan, but the story is real,” Alte added.
The Susan character is playing a prominent role in Gill’s campaign as he and Davis head toward a Nov. 6 showdown in a district stretching from Champaign to Edwardsville.
On his Facebook page, Gill says, “Check out our new TV spot & help me keep fighting for Susan.”
He’s also using “Susan” in his latest fundraising appeals.
In a follow-up statement, Gill campaign spokeswoman Lucy Stein suggested that Susan may be an amalgamation of a number of similar experiences Gill has had over the years.
“In his 13 years as an ER doctor caring for thousands of patients, David has seen too many young families devastated by heart attacks. These stories are the tragic but preventable result of a profit-driven health-care system,” Stein said.