WASHINGTON — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday upgraded David Gill's 13th Congressional District campaign effort to its "red-to-blue program," although even the Gill campaign is unclear about what kind of support that will mean.
"It's a demonstration to our supporters that, number one, we've made the determination that this district is winnable and, number two, that their support of David will really make a difference," said U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chair of the DCCC. "We've got literally hundreds of races across the country. The red-to-blue races are the ones that we currently have the most confidence in. It's a very dramatic indication of support.
"We also provide technical expertise to the candidates, and other forms of support."
Israel did not elaborate.
Gill's campaign manager, Michael Richards, said "it's a little unclear. What we know it gets us is the national recognition that this is a winnable race, that David can win this race and that this district wants to elect a candidate who wants to preserve Medicare and Social Security. We don't have any details beyond that."
Gill, a Bloomington emergency room physician, is opposing Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana. The new 13th District stretches from Urbana on the northeast to Collinsville and Edwardsville on the southwest.
Gill's race is now among the top contests for the DCCC, Israel said.
"These are our top-tier candidates in the country, which brings our total to 51," he said. "I put a premium in our recruiting and in bestowing red-to-blue status on problem-solvers."
But Gill was not the DCCC's original choice in the 13th District. The group quietly backed Gill's primary election opponent, Matt Goetten. But Gill prevailed by 163 votes and now the group is backing him.
Richards said the DCCC had not notified the Gill campaign that the race was being moved to a higher tier.
"We hope this sends people a signal that the issues this campaign is fighting for are winning issues and that David will do whatever it takes to win his race," he said. "We see this as public validation that this is one of the top races in the country."
Israel called the new 13th "an independent, moderate district" and said it gave President Obama nearly 56 percent of the vote in the 2008 election.
"David is an emergency room physician who emerged from a very tough primary fight, put together a very strong grass-roots campaign," he said. "His opponent has already signed on with the Washington Republicans to pass the (Rep. Paul) Ryan budget, protect tax breaks for millionaires and make middle class families and seniors pay more for Medicare."
But Davis spokesman Patrick Pfingsten said that Davis has not endorsed the Ryan budget.
"He has not signed onto it," Pfingsten said. "He said there are good things and bad things about it."
And in response to the DCCC upgrading Gill's campaign, Pfingsten turned to a frequent refrain of Davis', tying his Democratic opponent to the former Speaker of the House.
"Nancy Pelosi's support of David Gill isn't surprising because his liberal views are more in line with her radical agenda than the people of central Illinois," Pfingsten said. "Gill wants to raise taxes on all Illinois families, he's against efforts to balance the budget and he wants to implement a radical government-run socialized health care system."
Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, had a nearly identical response.
"Nancy Pelosi and David Gill are cut from the same extremely liberal cloth so it's not very surprising that Nancy Pelosi is throwing her support behind this radical candidate. Maybe David Gill should follow Nancy Pelosi out to California and run for Congress seeing his values are not in line with Illinois families," Prill said.
Richards dismissed the allusions to Pelosi.
"No one has ever accused David of being a party-line Democrat," he said.
Other Illinois Democrats included in the red-to-blue designation are Tammy Duckworth, who is opposing Rep. Joe Walsh; Brad Schneider, running against Rep. Robert Dold; Bill Foster in the district now served by Rep. Judy Biggert; William Enyart for the seat now held by retiring Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello; and Cheri Bustos, who is running against Rep. Bobby Schilling.
In their most recent campaign disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Davis reported $429,184 on hand while Gill had $200,606.
Israel claimed that House Republicans will lose seats in November.
"It's clear that the tea party wave that swept all these Republicans into Congress in 2010 is going to cost Republicans seats in 2012," he said. "There's no question that we're going to reverse the tea party wave of 2010. The only question is, how far."