GOP Congressional Hopefuls Present Ideas


The public got a look at many of the candidates hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) on the November ballot, even though a final nominee will be selected behind closed doors.

Despite the toxic atmosphere in Washington and a Congressional district that doesn't favor Republicans, representing the newly re-drawn 13th district is still a popular job. At least eight candidates have expressed interest in it. Johnson announced earlier this month that he will retire at the end of his current term.

Six of people vying to replace Johnson on the November ballot tested out their campaign running shoes on Monday in Bloomington at the Doubletree Hotel before an audience of party faithfuls.

"Overnight the 13th became a target on the pathway of Nancy Pelosi returning to power," said Congressional staffer Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

"We know Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to recover the House," said Assistant Illinois House Minority Leader Dan Brady (R-Bloomington). "They're opportunist and will invade if they smell there is a chance in a district."

"I'd like to beat Doctor (David) Gill a fourth time to make sure Nancy Pelosi does not become speaker again," said Congressional Chief of Staff Jerry Clarke of Urbana.

Politics is about making connections and most of the aspiring politicians have lot of networks. Three year State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) said he can appeal to independents as shown by his results in Macon County

"Probably what I think is seen by Republicans as the tougher part of this Congressional District," McCarter said. "I won that area and I won Decatur, the toughest part of it by a thousand votes."

Former State Rep. Mike Tate one-ups McCarter saying he won Decatur five times in ten years before stepping down to raise a family. Tate said his children are grown now and he can pour himself into a Congressional race that will be enhanced by his business connections as CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois.

"In terms of a campaign operation, I can tell yah I have small business people, independent agents which are like the backbone of their communities," Tate said. "They live in small towns in Illinois and they're the kind of people that are on their church board, active in the rotary club."

There are about 200 days to go before the November election.

State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) said the profile of a great candidate to deal with that short time frame looks a lot like him - an excellent campaigner. Brady said not only has he held office, but he has helped other Republicans, implying it would be their turn to help him if he is selected.

"I'm proud to say I've campaigned for candidates at every level from city council and county board to President of the United States," Brady said. "From my time as a young man helping to rebuild young Republican groups across the state to my present role as Assistant House Republican Leader, I've made service my driving force."

Brady also touted his name recognition, which could be code for having the same last name as a recent GOP candidate for Governor who did well in counties comprising the 13th district. Call it the Brady effect.

Two other candidates focused on the networks they would have if they won the race against Democratic Candidate David Gill in November.

Jerry Clarke is the current Chief of Staff for Congressman Randy Hultgren, former Chief of Staff for Tim Johnson and a longtime GOP staffer in Springfield. He emphasized his ability to navigate Washington.

"So I've seen the, up close the dysfunction of Congress, the endless gridlock, the out of control spending," Clarke said. "I think we can do better than that and I think I am ready to serve."

The threads that bind the system together are also a specialty of Rodney Davis of Taylorville, who for the last sixteen years has served as the special projects director for Congressman John Shimkus.

"I have helped countless constituents work through the bureaucratic red tape of Washington D.C. and the federal bureaucracy," Davis said. "I've been tasked with helping local leaders in 3 counties identify cost effective ways to address their local infrastructure issues."

A candidate with less of a resume chose to emphasize his social conservatism. David Paul Blumenshine of Bloomington mentioned the Trayvon Martin killing, trying to diminish it compared to the abortion issue.

"We're talking about rioting over a young man and another young man who got into an altercation and unfortunately somebody lost their life," Blumenshine said. "Since Roe v Wade was overturned we killed 50 million people."

Blumenshine incorrectly stated that Roe v. Wade had been overturned, when in fact it has not.

At least five of the 14 county party chiefs who will eventually make the call were watching the presentations. Although some may have already committed to an initial candidate, none are likely to go public with support ahead of a private get together late this month.

When the party had to hurriedly replace a candidate in the 11th district a few years ago, county chairs looked over all the resumes, polled each other, and then invited three finalists to make their cases in person before casting ballots weighted by population.

Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady is charing the panel that will oversee the process of selecting a nominee. He has yet to announce the selection process.

Champaign and Macon Counties have the two largest chunks of the weighted vote in the selection for the 13th Congressional district race.

Champaign County Acting Republican chair Habeeb Habeeb has said that it is possible that a similar forum - like the one held in Bloomington - will be held locally.

The winner of that vote will face presumptive Democratic nominee and three-time candidate, Doctor David Gill in November.


(Photo by Charlie Schlenker/IPR)


A full set of links to county GOP chairmen in the 13th District is listed below.

Story source: AP