This time, Johnson backing Davis
CHAMPAIGN — After declining to endorse him two years ago, former Republican Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana said Thursday he’s backing U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis this year.
“I’ve come to like him personally and I’m really pleased to endorse him,” Johnson, who retired from Congress in 2012, said of Davis. “I think that one of the things that this will help him with is that his numbers in the election in Champaign County haven’t been quite what he’d like them to be and they haven’t been anywhere near where mine were. Of course when you’re from an area where you’re going to have a leg up on somebody who is not that happens, but I think this will help him in that regard.”
In the 2012 election Davis lost Champaign County — the largest county by population in the 13th Congressional District — to Democrat David Gill. And in this year’s Republican primary, he lost the county to Urbana native Erika Harold.
But he won both races, thanks to support outside of Champaign County.
Not only did Johnson refuse to his fellow Republican two years ago, but he chided Davis and Gill for participating in negative advertising, calling on them to “cease and desist” the harsh tone the campaign took on.
“I can tell you this, it would be difficult to endorse somebody with the tone that’s been set here,” Johnson said a month before the November 2012 election. “It flies in the face of everything I’ve stood for.”
But the veteran Urbana Republican delivered a different message Thursday.
“I think (Davis) reflects not necessarily Champaign County, but probably he is more mainstream for this district,” Johnson said of the congressional district that stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Edwardsville and Collinsville on the southwest. “I think his philosophy reflects the district pretty well. And I think he’s done a more than credible job. Every time I’ve contacted his office with constituent matters he’s done a good job of getting back to me. And I want to see him get reelected.”
Davis is being challenged by former Madison County Judge Ann Callis, a Democrat from Edwardsville.
“I think this will be a tough reelection this year and in this part of the district — Champaign, McLean, Macon, DeWitt, Piatt (counties) — I think a number of people were interested in what my position was and I thought that with Labor Day coming up in a week or so, I thought it would be an appropriate time to endorse him. He asked me to endorse him and I told him I’d be pleased to do it.”
Davis said he welcomed Johnson’s support.
“It’s important to look to the future by also looking at past successes. When it comes to Champaign County and the areas that I have not spent many years working in until I became a member of Congress, it’s great to have resources like former Congressman Johnson to be able to go to for advice, and also you’ve got to respect his 40-plus years of public service,” Davis said.
He said he believed Johnson’s endorsement would help him.
“I do, and I think that as I become more familiar with Champaign County’s needs by having the privilege to represent the county in Washington, this is an addition that will allow me to get to know how to better serve Champaign County into the future,” Davis said. “That’s what today’s announcement is about. It’s less about the past and it’s more about the future of working together to serve the constituents that I have the blessing to serve, and that Tim served so well.”
Johnson said he stayed out of this year’s Republican primary because neither Davis nor Harold asked for his endorsement.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Erika Harold, and I have had for a long time And I think she ran a credible campaign,” Johnson said of the Urbana lawyer and former Miss America who got 41 percent of the vote against Davis in the March primary. “And even though I haven’t known him as long, I have come to have a high regard for Rodney too. And so I felt from my standpoint there wasn’t anything to be gained by endorsing one or the other so I just stayed out of it and let the chips fall where they may.”
Johnson called Davis “a tremendous fundraiser.” As of June 30 Davis had $1.33 million in his campaign fund versus $717,205 in Callis’ treasury.
“He’s one of the best fundraisers I’ve ever seen. I told him the other day that I bet he’s raised more in a year than I raised in my whole career,” Johnson said. “But in 2014 in a targeted district with control of the House on the line, there is going to be more money and people pumped into this district from Labor Day on than you could ever imagine. So I thought that getting out early and being able to articulate my support now, so it doesn’t get lost in the ads and everything else, I think it’s important.”
Johnson also said that both Callis and Davis have agreed to speak at undergraduate classes he’ll conduct this fall at both the University of Illinois and Illinois State University.