SPRINGFIELD — Republican officials have chosen Rodney Davis as the GOP nominee for longtime Congressman Tim Johnson's seat.
Davis, 42, of Taylorville, is an aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. He'll take on Democrat David Gill, a Bloomington physician, in the November election.
Davis’ selection comes six weeks after Johnson, R-Urbana, who easily won the Republican primary, announced he was stepping down at the conclusion of his sixth term in Congress to spend more time with his family.
Davis was chosen over Jerry Clarke of Urbana, longtime Republican strategist, current chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Wheaton, and former Johnson aide; Erika Harold of Urbana, a lawyer practicing in Chicago; and Kathy Wassink of Shipman, the owner-operator of a business that serves special needs children in central and southern Illinois School districts.
Champaign County Republican Party Chairman Habeeb Habeeb declined to say how the vote went but said it took three ballots and that he proudly stuck with Harold through all three as did McLean County Republican Party Chairman John Parrott.
“Sometimes you immediately recognize a wonderful opportunity. And the Republican party had that wonderful opportunity (with Harold),” said Habeeb, barely able to conceal his disappointment that she was not chosen.
Habeeb said he felt proud to have represented the wishes of voters in Champaign County in supporting Harold.
“I sought input from precinct committeemen and the public as a whole and I got hundreds of emails from people in all walks of life from party insiders to Tea Party members. Conservatives supported her, moderates supported her, independents supported her. It was incredible how wide the support was from a variety of members of the party,” said Habeeb.
Both Habeeb and Parrott said they talked to Harold after the selection was announced and found her to be gracious and open to serving the party in the future.
“She said everything happens for a reason. She’s enjoyed this process and respects the process,” Habeeb said.
“I told her to keep her chin up, that this was a great opportunity for her,” said Parrott. “I asked her if she would stay in the fight for the future. She said ‘absolutely’ and is looking forward to the next opportunity ...”
The News-Gazette could not reach Harold for a comment but Davis issued a written statement expressing his gratitude to the county chairmen for choosing him.
"As I traveled throughout the district during the selection process, voters told me that they wanted a common-sense, fiscally conservative representative in Washington to help restore the economy, create jobs and cut wasteful, out-of-control spending. Should the voters of the 13th district elect me in November, that is exactly what I will be," Davis said.
Davis has his work cut out for him. The new district stretches from Champaign and Urbana on the northeast through Decatur, includes parts of Bloomington, Normal and Springfield and arcs down to the southwest to Collinsville and Edwardsville.