Eight seek GOP nomination in 13th District

SPRINGFIELD — Eight Republicans have stepped forward to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, as their party's candidate in the 13th Congressional District, and the opponent to Democratic nominee David Gill of Bloomington.

They submitted applications with the state party by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

All eight will be interviewed this Saturday by the 14 county chairmen in the district, with the nominee tentatively expected to be chosen later this month.

The seat became open last month after Johnson, a six-term congressman who had won the March 20 primary election, announced that he intended to retire from Congress and would not run in the November general election.

The eight applicants include two who ran against Johnson in the March 20 GOP primary, another man who originally had said he would oppose Johnson in the primary, a former top aide to Johnson, a former Miss America, a tea party activist, an aide to another Illinois congressman and a former Illinois Agriculture Department director. Three of the candidates are women.

They are:

— Jerry Clarke of Urbana, a former aide to Johnson.

— Rodney Davis of Taylorville, an aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

— Erika Harold of Chicago, formerly of Urbana, who was Miss America 2003.

— Becky Doyle of rural Gillespie, formerly head of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

— Sam Spradlin of Springfield, a truck driver who originally announced he would oppose Johnson this year but then dropped out of the race.

— Frank Metzger of Glen Carbon, a retiree who got 9,571 votes, or 11.5 percent of the Republican primary vote in March.

— Michael Firsching of Moro, a veterinarian who got 6,706 votes, or 8 percent of the GOP primary vote.

— Kathy Wassink of Shipman, a tea party activist in the Alton area.

Although the interviews in Springfield Saturday will be conducted behind closed doors, at least two county chairmen have scheduled separate question-and-answer sessions in their counties that will be open to the public.

Champaign County GOP Chairman Habeeb Habeeb has scheduled an interview session from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday May 12 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign. And McLean County Republican chief John Parrott has scheduled a similar session on May 17. Other events, some of which are open only to precinct committeemen or Republican voters, are scheduled in Madison, DeWitt, Macoupin and Sangamon counties.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said last week he hopes the congressional candidate can be chosen by May 19.

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