URBANA — Republican congressional candidate Erika Harold asked party leaders Thursday to stop their "political obstructionism" and allow voters "to make their own choice" in her 13th Congressional District challenge of U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
Harold, an Urbana attorney, issued the statement near the end of a month that saw a former supporter call on her to drop out of the race and in which the state Republican Party denied her access to a voter database.
There was more bad news Thursday afternoon when Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said he would urge voters to support Davis in the March primary.
"I think he's been an outstanding congressman," Kirk said during a visit to Champaign. "I don't see anything that Rodney has done that warrants him being let go as our congressman."
But the statement Harold issued Thursday was taken as another indication that she was in the race to stay. Campaign spokesman Phil Bloomer said Harold wanted "to clarify her position and her resolve" to stay in the race.
"Members of the Republican establishment continue their attempts to make this primary a coronation," Harold said in her statement. "From day one, party leaders have angled to ensure that Congressman Rodney Davis is the only person on the Republican primary ballot. This is despite the fact that he received the nomination last time through an appointment by county chairmen and not by an election of primary voters.
"Elections are not coronations. They are the Constitutionally protected right of voters to compare candidates' ideas and qualifications. Unfortunately, party leaders have sought to deprive voters of this right. Party leaders have barred me from speaking at Republican Day at the state fair, denied my campaign access to the voter data contained in the Data Center/Voter Vault, and attempted to discourage people who wanted to support or contribute to my candidacy. Party leaders have sought to ensure that Congressman Davis does not have to compete against anyone else for votes in the primary. But votes must be earned; no one is entitled to a nomination.
"I am calling upon the Republican leadership to end the political obstructionism and allow the voters of the 13th District to make their own choice regarding who would best represent their interests and defend the Constitution. The voters of the 13th District are more than capable of thinking for themselves. Voters routinely tell me that they are looking forward to hearing where each candidate stands on the key issues and comparing our leadership skills through the process of debates. I commit to giving them that opportunity and hope that Congressman Davis will do the same."
Champaign County Republican Party Chairman Habeeb Habeeb urged "both camps to ratchet down the rhetoric and engage in a civil primary. Play hard, play fair, but in the end, we are all Americans and we are all on the same side."
He said he would grant permission to either candidate to have access to Champaign County's portion of the GOP "voter vault" database.
"Up till today, I have not received any information about anyone requesting permission, and if Erika asks for access, I will approve it immediately," Habeeb said.
He added that candidates also can request voter data from the State Board of Elections, for a fee, or from individual county clerks.
Harold said last week, though, that the GOP "voter vault" data was more thorough.
State Republican officials refuse to grant Harold access to the information, in part because some of the data had been collected last year by the Davis campaign.