Republicans in the 13th Congressional District might finally have their new candidate by May 19.
That's the timetable set up Monday night by the 14 county chairmen in the district that stretches from Champaign County on the northeast to Madison County on the southwest.
The county chairmen have to choose a candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, who announced earlier this month that he would not run for a seventh term, even though he had won the party's March 20 primary election.
"Legally, we could go to August. But we've scheduled May 19 tentatively for a vote," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. "But that is contingent on the process being complete, the background checks being complete and the county chairmen being satisfied that everyone has been fully and thoroughly vetted.
"Our goal is to do this as quickly as we can, consistent with our goal to make sure we do it thoroughly and the right way."
An application form is to be posted on the party's website (http://www.weareillinois.org) today so that anyone interested in the congressional nomination can complete it and forward it to party leaders.
The completed forms are due by May 2. But they will not be posted for the public to review, Brady said.
"There's information on there that is personal, that neither me nor the committee believes needs to be made public," he said.
After the number of candidates has been determined, Brady said, they all will be interviewed by the county chairmen May 5 in Springfield. Asked if the session would be open to the public, he said, "No, unless the committee has a change of heart between now and then, but I think the agreement last night was that they should not be made public."
For now, there are about 10 Republicans looking at the congressional seat: former Johnson chief of staff Jerry Clarke of Urbana; Rodney Davis of Taylorville, an aide to Rep. John Shimkus; state Reps. Dan Brady of Bloomington and Jim Watson of Jacksonville; former state Rep. Mike Tate of Springfield; former Miss America Erika Harold of Chicago; former Illinois Agriculture Director Becky Doyle of rural Gillespie; Sen. Sam McCann of Carlinville; and Springfield truck driver Sam Spradlin.
"After the May 5 meeting, the county chairmen should take the chance to discuss the nomination with Republicans in their county," Brady said.
"The thing that is most satisfying to see is how much the county chairmen want to make sure that the local county organization has input into this. That's how party politics should be run," he said.
The state party chairman said he didn't know if more candidates would step forward in the next week.
He said he didn't think the de-lay would be a problem for the candidate ultimately chosen.
"We're already working on our get-out-the-vote infrastructure within the congressional district," he said, adding that fundraising wouldn't be a problem either.
"We're going to be able to raise money for this candidate, no matter who it is," Brady said.
Habeeb Habbeeb, chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party, said he was concerned about the delay.
"I would have liked it to be faster, but more people are jumping in, so this is a good compromise," he said. "But we can't wait too long, because the person needs to start campaigning."