Collinsville Democrat may challenge Johnson

Collinsville Democrat may challenge Johnson

COLLINSVILLE — A former state representative from Madison County said he may challenge U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, in the new 13th Congressional District.

Jay Hoffman of Collinsville is the second Democrat to express interest in the race. David Gill, a physician from Bloomington, said Wednesday that he also may seek the Democratic nomination in the newly redrawn congressional district that runs from Urbana through 14 central and southwestern Illinois counties to the Metro East suburbs. It also includes Decatur, Springfield and most of Bloomington-Normal.

"The district is such," Hoffman said Thursday, "that I think the issues I've always stood for — job creation, ensuring that working families have a voice — would be a good fit for me.

"But I'm also looking at other options, including returning to the Illinois General Assembly."

Hoffman said "a lot of people," including officials with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have contacted him about the 13th District seat.

"They have reached out to me," he said. "My decision to run is not going to be based on whether the DCCC or any other partisan organization is supportive. It's going to be about whether I think I can serve that district and be a voice for job creation and using the natural resources of that district for job creation."

Hoffman, 49, served in the Illinois House from 1991 to this year. He lost his bid for re-election to Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, last November by 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent.

Although Hoffman is a well-known figure in Metro East politics and a prodigious fundraiser (he spent more than $1.5 million in his bid for re-election last year and still has about $370,000 in his campaign fund), he has significant negatives.

One — that he once was Rod Blagojevich's top ally in the Illinois House — was used against him in last year's campaign.

Another — that he voted earlier this year as a lame-duck legislator for Illinois' 67 percent income tax increase — would assuredly be brought up in a congressional campaign.

Hoffman said he probably would decide his political future in the next month.

"To make a decision now is premature. First of all the governor hasn't signed the map (legislation.) The boundaries aren't set yet," he said. "But I don't you can wait until court challenges are done. I think a Democrat can win that district. As a courtesy to others who may be considering running, I intend to make a decision in the very near future."

Hoffman and Johnson served together in the Illinois House for about 10 years and have what Hoffman said was a "cordial" relationship.

"I don't always agree with Tim on political issues. I never would have voted for the Ryan Medicare proposal (which would eventually phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance plans), which Tim did," Hoffman said. "I think we have a different philosophy of ensuring that working women and men and job creation are top priorities.

"But he's a hard worker who I've had a good relationship with. I'm not intending on saying anything bad about him."

Hoffman said he didn't begin to look at the 13th District race until he learned that state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, decided to bypass the race. He called Frerichs "a friend of mine. I thought that he should be able to look at his options and make a decision."

Frerichs said Thursday that he served a three-week internship in Hoffman's legislative office in 1997.

Since leaving the Legislature in January, Hoffman said, he has been practicing law and working with St. Louis-based Pluvius LLC, a construction management firm focused on renewable energy. Hoffman is listed on the company's web site as one of its six main leaders.

"We provide services to small entrepreneurs with good ideas," Hoffman said.

He also has been promoting his recently published book, "Hope from the Heartland," about the need for a national energy policy and how Illinois' natural resources should be tapped to fulfill that policy.