SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said he's "sad" that seven months after finishing one election campaign, it appears he's beginning another one.
Davis, a first-term congressman from Taylorville, last week learned that he'll be challenged in the Republican primary in March by Urbana attorney Erika Harold. Davis was named the 13th District GOP congressional candidate last spring after Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, withdrew from the race after winning the primary.
Harold was one of several candidates who had sought the nomination from the Republican county chairmen in the district that arcs from Champaign-Urbana southwest to Edwardsville and Collinsville.
"It just feels like the campaign never ends," Davis said Tuesday. "Let me put it in perspective. When I won on Election Day on that Tuesday in November, my opponent conceded via Facebook and Twitter on Friday. I went out to Washington, D.C., for orientation the following Tuesday and woke up the next morning and saw my name listed as the top target in the nation, so my break from campaigning was the Saturday, Sunday and Monday after election."
"So I'm not surprised by anything. It's sad because it seems like we just got over the last campaign and I think the folks of this district are tired of the constant campaigning, which is why I'm going to focus on doing my job, which we have been doing over the last five months."
Davis said he had not talked to Harold and indicated he wouldn't try to talk her out of running against him.
"That's not my decision," he said. "This is an issue that we'll deal with when it comes time to campaign. The bottom line is right now that we're focusing on doing the things that are right."
Meanwhile, a poll of 1,178 likely Republican voters taken Monday found that Davis had a 54 percent to 16 percent lead over Harold. The poll was taken by Capitol Fax and We Ask America.
But the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.86 percentage points, also found that more than 61 percent of the respondents had never heard of Harold, and more than 20 percent were unfamiliar with Davis.
But of those who knew Davis, a large majority approved of him.
Davis, in Springfield for a House Transportation Committee roundtable discussion on railroads, said he's hopeful of a resolution on two issues important to his district: the farm bill and student-loan rates.
On July 1, the loan rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress acts.
"It's very frustrating to me that students have to rely on Congress to set student-loan rates. We shouldn't have to rely on an institution that has about a 13 percent approval rating to determine how much students have to pay when they get out of school," said Davis, who has a large number of colleges and universities in his district, including the University of Illinois' Urbana campus.
"We need to make sure that government gets out of the way and we ensure that students have access to affordable education and loans that they know what the cost is going to be once they complete their schooling."
He predicted that Congress would "come up with an agreement," then added, "I hope, I really do."
He said the new farm bill undoubtedly would be left to a House-Senate conference committee after the Senate passed a more expensive version Monday.
"Any bill that passes the Senate is going to have more, cost more and never pass the House. Conversely, any bill that passes the House is going to have less cost, cost less and never pass the Senate," Davis said. "The key point is to get them passed in both chambers and then let the conference committee do its work.
"That's what we've been missing the last 41/2 years in Washington, and that's what I'm optimistic will happen when it comes to the farm bill."