NORMAL — U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson on Thursday threw his support behind Jason Barickman in the 53rd Senate District race against incumbent state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga.
The congressman noted that he had endorsed Cultra before, when the latter was challenged in an Illinois House race by Champaign firefighter Dave Tomlinson.
"I have no hesitation about saying positive things about Shane Cultra," said Johnson, R-Urbana. "You'll never hear one negative thing from my mouth about a good hard-working man. I have a good friendship with him, and I would in no way retrench my past endorsement."
But Barickman, Johnson said, "is an extraordinary person, and that's why I'm endorsing him."
"I would suggest the choice in this district is clear, and that is that Jason Barickman is the person best equipped to carry the banner for the Republican ticket in the fall, and the person best equipped to serve the Senate district for the next 10 years or beyond," the veteran Urbana legislator said. "Jason's energy, his enthusiasm, his intellect, his acumen is something I find extraordinary."
Cultra could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Barickman and Cultra are running in a newly drawn, heavily Republican district that includes portions of Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, McLean, Vermilion and Woodford counties. The loser in next month's Republican primary election will be a lame-duck state legislator for about eight months.
Barickman, 36, who has served in the Illinois House for about 13 months, said he was "absolutely humbled" to receive Johnson's endorsement.
"We're friends, but he is someone who has guided me through my political involvement. You look how he has demonstrated positive political service. Congressman Johnson is, first and foremost, one of the hardest workers who represents his district well," Barickman said.
"The congressman has a certain knack for demonstrating both leadership and civility at a time when most people at home are frustrated with the failure of our government to get things done."
Johnson is expected to make endorsements in at least two other Republican primary races in the next few weeks.