CHAMPAIGN — Mike Frerichs said he gave a congressional race a lot of thought but has decided to run for re-election to the state Senate.
Frerichs said Monday that he considered a challenge to U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, in the new 13th Congressional District that includes Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, most of Springfield, Decatur and parts of Bloomington-Normal.
The marginally Republican district extends all the way to Madison County and the Illinois suburbs in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
"I've thought about this and I think I could have a good run for Congress. I think I could spend the next year and a half being a good senator for the area. I think I could also be a good father. But I don't think I could be all three," Frerichs said. "So I think I'm going to take a pass at Congress now and concentrate on running for re-election to the state Senate."
He said he spent last weekend with his wife Laura, his 2 1/2-year-old daughter Ella and his in-laws, discussing a possible congressional race.
"It just became clear that my daughter is too young, I like spending time with her too much and I don't think I could be a good congressman and a good father," said Frerichs, 37. "At the end of the day, being a father won out."
He said he believes the congressional district is "one that a Democrat can be competitive in and one that I think if I had thrown myself into it I would have had a good shot of winning."
He said he thought it would cost at least $2 million to run in the 13th District "and easily much more than that," primarily because of the cost of Metro East St. Louis television advertising.
A rematch with Johnson — who defeated him in a race in the old 104th Illinois House District in 1998 — was intriguing to Frerichs, he said. In that contest, Johnson got 53 percent, Frerichs collected 45 percent and Libertarian Party candidate David Wood had 2 percent. It was the closest race in Johnson's 24-year legislative career.
"Tim and I had a very good run 13 years ago and Tim has asked me for a rematch in the past and I suppose I was eager for that," Frerichs said. "But at the end of the day, my family was more important than any rematch with Tim."
Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer said a Johnson-Frerichs race "would have been interesting. But I can tell you that if Tim does confirm that he's running in the 13th, no one's going to work harder. The guy will make 100,000 calls in the counties in the district."
He said the counties in the district gave Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady a 56 percent victory margin last November.
Frerichs was the most frequently mentioned Democratic candidate in the new 13th District. He said that "several other Democrats are talking about" the seat.
He said he believes 2012 "will be a good year for Democrats in Illinois with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket," and that he expects to win re-election to his 52nd Senate seat that includes most of both Champaign and Vermilion counties.
Several Republicans, including Champaign County Board member Alan Nudo and Danville resident Al Reynolds, who ran against Frerichs last year, are said to be looking into challenging him in November 2012. One significant advantage Frerichs already enjoys, however, is a $250,000 campaign fund.