Frerichs to seek re-election, bypass try at Congress

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.

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jthartke wrote on June 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

No mention of the size of Congressman Johnson's likely significant campaign fund, however. I suppose only Democrats use money to their advantage when they are incumbents.

I would also point out that even averaging just 1 minute per phone call, 100,000 calls would equal out to 208 eight hour days on the phone. I would like my congressman to actually show up to work some time in that period.

mankind wrote on June 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I'd like to see Johnson's phone records. The number of calls he reportedly makes is astounding, but it's (just barely) feasible if you do the math and count all the people who hang up on him or are too surprised to talk long. Still, that's a lot of calls. He better hope that the rumors of cell phones causing brain cancer aren't true.

thelowedown wrote on June 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

jthartke, Roll Call ran a story earlier this year about how often Tim Johnson is making person constituent calls to the district now. It was something like 10 hours a day. It's clear he's not working on policy or even trying to be a hardcore policy wonk. Instead, and I don't mean for my tone to suggest this is a bad thing, he works almost exclusively and feverishly on constituent issues. In fact, a member of my family received help from Mr. Johnson's office and was very pleased with some of the work he, himself, was able to do for them. Some may like Johnson's policy positions, others may not, but I think it's clear that even in an an election season, and a major one with the presidency on the ballot, that congressmen shouldn't be using their office to work over constituents aka voters on our dimes. Yes, it's politics meeting governing, but he better be able to separate them with a bright yellow line.

As for Mr. Frerichs, he'll probably run for higher office someday, but obviously that day is not now. I wonder if he'll try to move in the echelons of Senate leadership in Springfield? One thing I've heard from former congresspeople on television and things I've read is that most recommend moving the families to the Washington area because you're there so much in this age. However, the same people also note that that creates disconnects between your family and the district because there are long periods, like campaign season, when you are back in the district away from family. Additionally, it opens congressmen to the attack that they have become Washingtonians who are carpetbagging in the district they represent just to be in DC. It's tough.

I also wonder why the N-G isn't reporting that John Bambenek has already announced he's running for the GOP nomination to face Frerichs. Al Reynolds is a clown and he won't win anything if some serious GOP candidates run.

thelowedown wrote on June 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Roll Call article link (paywalled) on Tim Johnson here:
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_131/Timothy-Johnson-Illinois-Phone-Cal...

Fortunately, I was able to find this LA Times article on Johnson's calling habits
http://articles.latimes.com/print/2010/aug/25/nation/la-na-congressman-c...

ilmsff7 wrote on June 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I applaud Frerichs for choosing family over political ambitions.

bluegrass wrote on June 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm

It's nice that he said he was going to choose to be a father, but the reality is that short of a Weiner-sized mistake, he can't beat Tim Johnson.

Besides, it would have messed up Gill's plans for another landslide loss. Is he in the 13th?

sameeker wrote on June 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

While I think Mike would be better then Johnson, I wish I had a dollar for every time a politician said they they were making a decision based on family obligations. The real reason is that he does not want to go up against an incumbent. Can't say I blame him given all the insurance, health care and corporate money in Johnsons chest. It is sickening that it costs two million to run for congress.