URBANA — A former Macon County Republican Party chairman and one-time supporter of GOP congressional candidate Erika Harold said Monday that the Urbana attorney should give up her campaign against freshman U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
But a spokesman for Harold said she had no intention of quitting her 5-month-old quest to defeat Davis in the Republican primary next March.
John Davis, a former Decatur judge and former head of the Macon County GOP, first urged Harold to drop out of the race Monday morning in a call to Decatur radio station WZUS-FM.
Calling himself "a former supporter," Davis expanded on his remarks in an interview with The News-Gazette.
"I sure expected more from her than what we've gotten. I think the best thing she can do — she doesn't have to listen to me — but the best thing she can do is now gracefully go to each county chairman and say, 'I'm behind in the polls, I made a good effort and I'm dropping out of this race for the sake of myself and this party," said Davis.
He criticized her campaign, saying it has done a poor job of keeping in touch with supporters and volunteers.
"They're not making any kind of followup with contacts whatsoever. They've done a lot of parades and public appearances, but they have not worked with their grass-roots people," he said. "I've been involved in enough campaigns to know that once you've made a contact, you've got to maintain that contact, and you've got to keep those people informed. If nothing else, it's just a common courtesy.
"She doesn't owe me a thing. Initially I supported here because I agreed that the people deserved a choice that they didn't get with the way the process worked with the nomination of Rodney (in 2012). But I want to emphasize that I have nothing against Rodney Davis. I think he's a good congressman and he's done a good job and will continue to do a good job. I just felt that the voters needed to make the choice."
Harold spokesman Phil Bloomer said that John Davis (no relation to Rodney Davis) may have been displeased with his role in the Harold campaign.
"John Davis was a volunteer, and he helped out with a couple of parades and that was the extent of it. I think he wanted to be more involved in a more central part of the campaign and was not asked to and I think that's why he's upset with Erika," said Bloomer.
He said the candidate, a former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate, would not give up.
"She's very committed and very resolute, and people who make that kind of speculation have no idea what's going on inside this campaign," he said.
Bloomer said that "no one else" has urged Harold to quit the campaign. He added that she had spent part of her Monday doing an interview for a national publication.
"She's still attracting a lot of national attention that her opponents are not," he said.
But Champaign County Republican Party Chairman Habeeb Habeeb, who had supported Harold last year in the process where Davis was appointed the Republican candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, admitted Monday that he had tried in August to talk Harold into running for state treasurer instead of Congress.
"I wrote a full page with reasons why she'd make a great treasurer candidate. One of them was that she could use the money she raised for the congressional race. She would get a head start. The treasurer's office could lead to something bigger, usually it's a stepping stone. She'd be able to travel the whole state and serve. She would become very well known. She could run for the Senate seat when (Democrat Dick) Durbin resigns. She said no.
"I said something like I know I'm taking a bold step with you, but as a friend I want to give you the options about state treasurer. I know we can get a lot of support if you choose to run in that race. I wasn't telling her to get out and do that. I was trying to help her win. I think it would be a good win. I think it would be good with her and (Democrat Mike) Frerichs both being from Champaign. They're both good candidates, I think. But she said no and I never urged her again."
John Davis, meanwhile, called Harold's campaign staff "inexperienced" and said "a lot of her problems are just political naivete."
"She's a good campaigner. She's got a great personality. People like her. She's intelligent. But the followup is bad," he said. "I had some really strong people lined up here in Macon County who have not been involved in campaigns before and (the Harold campaign) never followed up."
Habeeb said Monday that he's trying to stay neutral in the Davis-Harold race this time.
"I honestly want to be neutral and allow two races if need be. But I don't end up talking to both camps. They're both guarded with me," he said. "I'm not working against anybody. I wasn't steering Erika away from running. I was trying to help her win. To me it's like being a coach. The goal is not to scrimmage. The goal is to win the game against the real opponent. How do you win the real race? Sometimes you don't go for something, you go for something else. I would love to see Erika as an officeholder, somehow, somewhere."
Monday's remarks by John Davis aren't the first time that a local Republican official has urged her not to challenge Rodney Davis. But they took on more urgency after third-quarter fundraising totals were revealed last week and they showed that Harold had $99,209 on hand to Rodney Davis' $882,146. And an Oct. 10 poll of 13th District Republican voters by Springfield-based We Ask America showed that Davis had a 4-to-1 lead over Harold.