David Gill said Thursday he's in the race for the Democratic nomination in the new 13th Congressional District.
And, for once, he may not be the only Democratic contender for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.
Mark N. Lee, a 49-year-old labor lawyer who practices in Springfield and lives in Rochester, said he'll decide next week whether to take the plunge as well.
"I think that one of the reasons people are considering me is that I have a footprint across the district," Lee said. "I've represented a lot of clients in Champaign, I kinda grew up in Decatur and I practice in Springfield. And I have some organized labor I represent in Carlinville and in the Edwardsville area."
Lee said he "probably will make a decision Tuesday or Wednesday."
Meanwhile, Gill jumped into the race on Thursday. It's the fourth time he's run for Congress, losing to Johnson in 2004, 2006 and 2010. But all of those races were in the current 15th Congressional District, where last year Johnson won with 64 percent of the vote.
The new 13th Congressional District, which runs from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast and arcs through Decatur, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and down to Edwardsville and Collinsville, is more favorable, Democrats say. It includes all or parts of 14 counties in central and southwestern Illinois.
"I've been looking into the precincts," Gill said, "and I have little doubt that the outcome's going to be different this time. This is a much better district, no comparison."
A generic Democratic candidate would get 48 percent to 52 percent of the vote, Gill said, "and in the last election I outperformed the heavily funded Democrats like Gov. Quinn and (U.S. Senate candidate) Alexi Giannoulias by 15 to 20 points in each of my counties. We think that this is very, very winnable, with a baseline Democrat having approximately half the vote already."
Gill already has begun building a campaign staff, naming Deb Schrishuhn of rural Urbana his campaign manager, Jessica LaRosa of Champaign his campaign treasurer and Champaign County Board member Michael Richards his director of media relations.
Gill, an emergency room physician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, lives in Bloomington.
"I wish Mr. Gill the best," Lee said Thursday, sounding very much like a candidate. "I always thought he was a good guy, and I think he's a good physician and he can serve the community in that capacity quite well.
"I'm not in opposition to anybody. I have nothing negative to say about Mr. Johnson or Mr. Gill or any other opponent or potential opponent. I'm here to propose some of the things I think we ought to do and some of the values we should protect and preserve."
Lee said he was born in Chicago, but his father, a union pipefitter, moved the family to Decatur in 1977 so he could work on the construction of the Clinton nuclear plant. Lee went to MacArthur High School and Millikin University. He is married and has two children, ages 12 and 10.
"I have a statewide law practice, but most of my work is in Champaign, Decatur and Springfield," he said.
Johnson has already said he would run for a seventh term in the U.S. House in the new 13th District. Springfield truck driver Samuel Spradlin said he will challenge Johnson in the GOP primary next March.