EDWARDSVILLE — There's a chance that central Illinois voters will have a third choice for Congress in November.
John Hartman of Edwardsville, the chief financial officer of a St. Louis medical technology firm, is collecting signatures to run as an independent candidate in the 13th Congressional District that stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Madison County on the southwest.
Democrats chose Bloomington physician David Gill as their candidate at the March 20 primary election. Republican county chairmen in the district will choose their candidate next month, following Rep. Tim Johnson's decision to drop out of the race.
Hartman, 56, will need the signatures of at least 5,000 registered voters in the district by June 25 in order to get on the November general election ballot.
"I think I can do it. I've been working pretty hard," he said. "I ask stores where there is foot traffic if they will let me courteously ask their customers for a signature. And I stand on the public sidewalks in front of post offices."
He said he has been all over the district, including in Champaign County, in search of signatures. "I spent a good day in Champaign about 10 days ago," he said.
Hartman said he also attempted to run for Congress in 2006 as an independent, but was unable to gather the 16,000 signatures required. Fewer signatures are required this year, he said, because it's a redistricting year with a newly configured district.
"I've been an independent for 30 years, and it would seem artificial to pretend that I'm not an independent," he said. "I don't think we want more artificiality in our candidates."
He said he had planned to run for the congressional seat long before Johnson announced that he was retiring, acquiring his website, http://www.hartman2012.com, last fall.
He said he believes the low public approval ratings for Congress and the political parties will help him.
"Just generally, even people who don't know David Gill yet or don't know what happened in the Republican primary, which is most of the people I see walking up to get their coffee, they're just ready for a change, ready for new blood," Hartman said. "I'm getting a lot of encouragement from people. I think the Gallup Poll shows that only 10 percent of people approve of Congress' performance, and that's an all-time low."
Hartman grew up in Edwardsville. His parents, however, are from East Central Illinois. His late mother, the former Pat Moore, grew up in Arcola. His father, who is 86 years old and living in Belleville, hails from Pesotum.
Hartman has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis. He received a master of arts degree in teaching from Johns Hopkins University. After teaching at an elementary school in Clayton, Mo., Hartman began in 2000 at DNA Polymerase Technology Inc. in St. Louis.
According to his website, Hartman supports increasing federal taxes on gasoline and other sources of greenhouse gases, backs a national health care plan like those in Canada or Germany, and says that a budget compromise, such as the so-called Simpson-Bowles plan, should be adopted.