Congressman Johnson Rips 13th District Negative Campaigning
By Jeff Bossert
Retiring Urbana Republican Congressman Tim Johnson says the mudslinging has to stop in the effort to succeed him.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Champaign, Johnson announced he’s written letters to Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat David Gill, asking the 13th District Congressional candidates to pull their negative campaign ads.
Letters have also gone out to the Congressional campaign committees of each party. Johnson says he’s ‘aghast and horrified’ by the level that each campaign has fallen.
“Quite frankly, I think it reflects campaigns all over the country," he said. "The half-truths, the outright lies, the attacks on your opponent, have just reached a level where it’s just unconscionable. And I didn’t feel in good conscience that I can sit back and allow that to maintain itself.”
Johnson says an overwhelming number of constituents have called on him to try and end the mudslinging. He says the district has become ‘a cesspool for negativity’.
"I think I’ve got a right to reflect what my constituents say," he said. "My constituents, Republican-Democrat, Gill and Davis, Liberal and Conservative, all say this is bad staff and you’ve got to change it. And it hurts the process, and it hurts the image, and it hurts the product. I am, at this point, asking each one of them, through the media, and through the letters that we sent to change the tone, and to do something about what I think has become a very degraded process.”
Johnson says we’ve reached a point where no one trusts Congress or the state legislature, and a lot of that is a result of negative campaigns. The Republican says he’s never resorted to that in his more than 40 years in politics. He also pointed to his efforts to start up the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus with Democrats.
Johnson also says the tone between Davis and Gill could help independent candidate John Hartman.
UPDATE: Both major party candidates in the 13th district Congressional race have issued a response to Johnson’s comments.
On behalf of Davis, former Republican Congressman Tom Ewing stated he’s proud of the way Davis has conducted himself during an onslaught of false and negative ads, and applauds him for continuing to talk about many issues where he and Gill disagree.
But Gill offered a different tone, saying he too is disappointed by the negative tone of Super PACS, who started running negative ads against him almost two months ago. But he also says Friends of David Gill has not aired a negative TV commercial or radio commercial so far in this race.