Former Urbana resident and Miss America Erika Harold says she has decided to seek the Republican nomination for the open 13th Congressional District seat.
Earlier this week, Harold, a Harvard Law School graduate now with a Chicago law firm, said she was only "exploring the possibility."
"I have decided to submit the application to fully participate in the selection process, and if I was selected, I would be honored to accept the nomination," Harold, 32, said Friday.
The Republican nomination became open early this month when U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, announced that he would not run for a seventh term, even though he had won a three-way GOP primary election on March 20.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about it, praying about it, speaking with people in the district," Harold said. "Certainly after there was coverage of my contemplation of this race, I received a very favorable response. A lot of people urged me to offer myself as a candidate. I was extremely humbled and honored by that reaction. If the chairmen selected me, I would be delighted and honored to accept the nomination."
Although the U.S. Constitution does not require that a congressman live in the district that he or she represents, Harold said she is prepared to move to the 13th District if she becomes the Republican nominee.
"My goal would be to move as soon as possible," she said.
Harold said she working on completing the lengthy application and questionnaire for the position that is posted on the Illinois Republican Party's website at http://www.weareillinois.org/learn/resources.aspx.
"I haven't completed it yet, but this weekend I will be spending a lot of time working on it," she said. "I think it's designed to provide the chairmen with a full glimpse of who you are and to provide them with the tools to assess your capacity to be an effective candidate."
Republicans interested in seeking the position must complete the application, plus include a resume, three references, their voting record for the last 10 years and an outline "demonstrating how you will win the 13th Congressional District" by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
After that, the applicants are scheduled to be interviewed by the 14 Republican county chairmen in the district next weekend.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said earlier this week that he believes the party could have a replacement for Johnson by May 19.
"I think this process is really about figuring out the priorities of people within the 13th District and then figuring out, are you the best person equipped to represent those interests come this fall?" Harold said. "I think I've had a pretty unique set of life experiences. I think those experiences and interacting with so many different people as Miss America, as a lawyer and in many other capacities will hopefully equip me to be able to relate to and serve as an effective advocate for the diverse interests within the district."
She declined to describe her political orthodoxy.
"I try to avoid labels. I'm driven by issues," she said. "I'm an issued-based person. I'm someone who wants to see government operate effectively but in a limited way."
Although Brady said he knows Harold, he said Friday that he did not encourage her to seek the seat.
"I haven't encouraged anybody; I've just managed the process," he said.
"I just said open it up and whoever wants to apply, apply."
The application and questionnaire the candidates have to fill out — the responses to which will not be made public, according to Brady — address a number of potentially touchy topics.
The 58 questions include:
— Have you or your ex-spouse ever been delinquent in child support or alimony payments?
— Have you ever been arrested?
— Have you ever been stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs? If so, what was the outcome?
— Have you ever been treated for substance abuse or spent time in a rehabilitation facility?
— Have you ever testified or been served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury, trial court, administrative or regulatory agency?
— Please list any history/problems with your employees (mass layoffs, illegal immigrants, benefit disputes, etc.)
— Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
— Are your taxes up-to-date?
— Has the IRS audited you or your business or family business?
— Have you ever voted in the primary of any political party other than the Republican Party?
— Have you ever outwardly supported a candidate who was not a Republican Party candidate?
— Are you or have you ever been a registered participant or member of a radical, communist or socialist political party or organization?
The thorough vetting is something the party has to do, said Brady, who is a former federal prosecutor and in his full-time job does corruption investigations for private companies.
"There was a story in Politico this week that the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) has 300 investigators that are vetting our candidates," he said. "This is a serious business, the stakes are high. I'm the last guy in the world to want to make paperwork, but I think it's important that we get these questions answered. All the chairmen looked at it and agreed that all of the questions were relevant."