Five Republican congressional districts in Illinois have been identified as potential Democratic takeover targets, but the new 13th Congressional District that includes Champaign-Urbana isn't one of them.
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the group's "red to blue" campaign does not include the district where David Gill appears to have defeated Matt Goetten, the Greene County state's attorney who had been supported by Israel and other congressmen and senators.
Israel's own New York Jobs political action committee gave $5,000 to Goetten's campaign fund earlier this month. Goetten also got substantial sums from PACS affiliated with Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.; George Miller, D-Calif.; Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa.; and James Clyburn, D-S.C.
Israel, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday, said he would hold off making a commitment to the 13th District until he saw who won the election where Gill has a 143-vote lead out of nearly 31,000 Democratic votes cast.
"Ballots are still being counted and we want to make sure that every ballot counts, and we hope that we'll have a quick resolution to that and I'll make an assessment based on a variety of factors as to whether that will be a 'red to blue' district," Israel said. "Until we have the primary election certified, I'm going to hold off."
Israel's comments seemed to signal that he was not warm to the idea of a Gill general-election candidacy.
"We want to see who the candidate is. We want to get an assessment of their fundraising abilities. We want to get an assessment of their residence in the district," Israel said. "A good portion of the district is new. Based on that matrix, we'll make our decision."
Goetten raised more money than Gill did in the primary campaign. In addition, Gill currently lives in a part of Bloomington that is just outside the 13th District.
Gill's campaign spokesman, Michael Richards, said the 13th "is not one that the Democratic Party can afford to leave on the table if they want to retake the majority in Congress later this year."
"I really think that Illinois 13 voters disagree with him and that Democratic primary voters thought that our message of anti-Washington status quo and anti-Wall Street, and pro-change in Washington resonated with them even though we were outspent on communications 4 or 5 to 1."
Richards said he disputed the notion "that this district is off the table and that David is not a candidate who can win in Illinois 13. We think that David's message was a good message for Democratic primary voters and is a good message for independent and swing voters as well."
And he said there is "a long string of candidates that the DCCC did not back in a primary and said couldn't win who are now serving in Congress, or have been elected in the last few terms. We think we're in good company."
He cited Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., and John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
If Gill is ultimately proven the winner, not only will the DCCC have a difficult time deciding whether to help finance his anti-Washington campaign, but Gill would also have a difficult time accepting their support.
After a televised debate last week in which he repeatedly attacked Goetten for taking political action and "Washington insider" campaign contributions, Gill asserted that the DCCC wanted to see him lose.
"They don't like me. They like corporate funding. This party, a generation ago, decided to drink that corporate cash. They don't like someone like me to speak out against them, and it results in so many bad decisions for the American people. Will they get behind me if I defeat Mr. Goetten next week? I don't know. We'll see."
Asked if he would take DCCC money, Gill replied, "My druthers would be no, but I won't promise you."
Although Gill claimed to have won the 13th District nomination, the Goetten campaign Wednesday called that declaration "premature."
"I am humbled by the strength of the grassroots campaign we built together, and I believe we must wait until all votes are counted before declaring victory in this race," Goetten said in a statement.
Goetten's campaign manager, Vlad Gutman, said absentee, provisional and overseas ballots still remain to be counted and that they could affect the current 143-vote margin. The State Board of Elections isn't scheduled to formally certify election results until April 20.
But Michaels said he was "pretty confident that with all the precincts in and early votes in and almost all absentees in, that there's not going to be a lot of change in this result."
The county-by-county breakdown of Democratic voting in the 13th District showed that Gill won only four of the 14 counties, but he won the biggest plum — Champaign County — with 76 percent of the vote.
"Champaign County was huge," Richards said of Gill's 3,481-vote bulge over Goetten. Gill also won in DeWitt, McLean and Piatt counties, but by smaller margins.
Goetten won the other 10 counties, including Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Greene, Jersey, Macon, Madison, Macoupin, Montgomery and Sangamon. But none of those counties has the voting heft of Champaign County. The largest was Macon, with 5,310 Democratic votes Tuesday.