DANVILLE — U.S. Rep. John Shimkus said Monday that he'll run for a 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the enormous 15th Congressional District that includes 33 of Illinois' 102 counties and stretches from Vermilion and Ford counties on the north to the Ohio River on the south and the Mississippi on the west.
It also includes about 30 percent of the voters in Champaign County.
The Collinsville Republican chose Danville — the largest city in the district — as the first stop on his four-city announcement tour Monday. Shimkus, 55, won a year ago with 68.6 percent of the vote over the Democratic candidate, Angela Michael of Highland.
At least two people have said they intend to run for the Democratic nomination next year: Michael, and Eric Thorsland of rural Mahomet, chair of the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals.
Shimkus said Monday that he isn't anxious about running again in 2014, even though Congress' approval rating is in single digits after the government shutdown and after he had pledged to limit himself to six terms, then went back on the promise.
"My district is very conservative. It's small-town rural. It's people who balance their budget. They don't ask a lot from the federal government. They understand that we have a $17 trillion national debt," Shimkus said. "I've seen emotion. I've seen swing. I've been involved in some tougher campaigns. I like that fact that the people will have a chance to choose."
He spent much of his time Monday talking about President Barack Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act. He said he considered the Republican House "the only check on liberalism and big government that is represented by the executive branch and the Senate."
"We are currently observing the failures of big government right now," Shimkus said of Obamacare. "To have the federal government think that it can run a business operation like a website, you see where it is occurring. Absolute failure."
He also called the administration "sometimes intellectually dishonest. The president campaigned and promoted a health care system and promised the American people that if you like the insurance that you have you can keep it. And we know that that's not true. We tried to make that case over the years, that the president wasn't being forthright in this debate."
Shimkus joked that the Washington Post had become "one of my favorite newspapers" because last week its Fact Checker column gave Obama "four Pinocchios" — "a whopper" for his promise that people could keep their insurance coverage.
"The president was intellectually dishonest when he went numerous times to say if you like the insurance you have you can keep it. If he said it once, he said it a bazillion times, and people are very frustrated with that statement because it's just not true," Shimkus said.
Asked if he thought that Republicans are in a better position today than they were a month ago to push for defunding or delaying Obamacare, Shimkus was noncommittal.
"One of our proposals we sent to the Senate was let's fund the government and delay the individual mandate for one year," he said. "Now I think that people are starting to say, 'Now we get it. Now we understand.' We delayed it for large corporations. We were trying to say, 'Let's just be fair. The rollout is not going to be good. There are challenges so let's delay it for individuals like we did for corporate America.'
"Now we have Democrats saying let's delay it for three months. So will there be a time, if it doesn't get fixed, that there will be a consensus saying let's do a do-over, or let's take a pause and get it fixed and see what else can be rolled out?"
He said the administration should make health insurance policies "more market-based," but with catastrophic coverage.
"Gosh, I don't know if we'll get there because it's just a different ... what separates the two parties is that we trust the competitive marketplace, and my friends on the left, they don't. They want government to dictate because they don't trust the marketplace.
"I think you could have a short-term delay," he said, "but the administration is so wedded to this, as this being their signature legislative achievement that I think it will be very difficult for them to walk away from it."
Shimkus also said he was concerned about the Illinois economy.
"The state response to business and how they in essence pick winners and losers, and workers' compensation, our proximity to states that are viewed as more business-friendly, that is something I cannot do, but I can talk about and then let the public then make decisions on this next election cycle," Shimkus said. "The saving grace for our economy right now is this future of low-cost energy. If you're in the manufacturing sector, I think we have some folks who are deciding to not move and stay, and it's based on nothing that government has done. It's just new technology and energy."
Although he said he was worried about Illinois' economy, he said "I don't expect to" endorse any of the four Republican candidates for governor.
"They're all good friends. They're all working hard. I'm going to watch the process unfold," said Shimkus.