Tom Kacich: Dem to announce run against Davis

Tom Kacich: Dem to announce run against Davis

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Democrats in the 13th Congressional District finally have a candidate to face two-term incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

Mark David Wicklund of Decatur filed his campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission in late September and said Monday that he will formally announce his candidacy later this week.

Wicklund, 47, is a disabled steelworker who is president of the board of the Decatur-Macon County Opportunities Corp., which oversees the Head Start and LIHEAP programs there as well as a senior home meals project. He also is a former Macon County Board members. And for the last 2 1/2 years he's spent much of his time at home, caring for his 26-year-old son, Adam, who suffered a stroke related to his service in Afghanistan.

Davis already has one announced opponent, Bloomington emergency department physician David Gill, who ran in the 13th District in 2012 and narrowly lost. But Gill said he intends to run as an independent in next year's general election.

"I do know David Gill. I consider him a good friend," said Wicklund. "He's got a long way to go. He has to get 10,000 to 15,000 signatures to run as an independent. It's a lot and I don't know if he's still trying to campaign and work the ER at the same time. It's a good-sized district, and working in the ER is hard to begin with. And trying to campaign on top of that, I don't know how he's going to be able to do it.

"I've talked to him. I talked to him that day he announced and a couple times since then. We told each other good luck and we'll where things lay at the end of the road."

Wicklund said he's been considering a run in the 13th District — which stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis on the southwest — since Memorial Day.

"The Republicans out there in Congress have been driving me crazy," he said. "They can't get things done. I've seen all that stuff playing out on TV and it's a little embarrassing. We've got work that needs to be done out there and nothing's getting done."

He said he's tried to work with Davis, but claimed the congressman has been uncooperative.

"I've tried setting up meetings with him and his staff to go over some issues with Head Start and some veterans and active duty military issues and couple of other things. And they cancel their appointments, they never reschedule, they never return phone calls. Its one of those types of deals," Wicklund said. "It just adds fuel to the fire. I think if you're elected to that position you should at least return calls to your constituents, whether you think they voted for you or not."

Ashley Phelps, a spokeswoman for Davis, said the congressman's records show that Wicklund twice contacted the congressman. In March 2013 Wicklund met with Tim Butler, then Davis' district chief of staff, to discuss Head Start and veterans issues. And in July 2014 Wicklund invited Davis to an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Decatur-Macon County Opportunities Corp. Davis declined the invitation, Phelps said.

"As far as I know those are the only times he's contacted our office," she said.

Wicklund said he isn't the candidate of the Washington-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which recruited and promoted former Judge Ann Callis in last year's 13th District election, with an embarrassing outcome. Callis lost to Davis, 59 percent to 41 percent.

"I have not been contacted by the DCCC. I'm doing this on my own. It's something that needs to be done," he said. "I've seen what works in campaigns and what doesn't work in campaigns.

"This district is all stomping grounds for me, Champaign, Springfield, Bloomington, Staunton, Raymond. I pretty much know the terrain. It's just getting back out and reintroducing myself to old friends I have in the district," said Wicklund, who said his jobs have included building grain bins, and working in a number of plants in the area.

Nowadays, he said, he spends most of his time with his son, who is a quadriplegic and unable to speak.

"In 2013 he suffered a stroke to the back of his brain related to his tour of duty in Afghanistan," Wicklund said of his son, who was an Army sharpshooter. "We didn't realize that he was in over 120 close combat missions and he had received a couple of awards related to that. He tested for concussions three or four times while he was over there and when he got back home he had a slight bump to his head and it was just enough to finish off a main artery to the back of his brain."

The two communicate through eye movements, he said.

"Him and I rattle through a conversation pretty quick. It took him and I about two weeks to memorize the spell system he has to communicate," said Wicklund.

Acklin files

Jim Acklin, the former St. Joseph-Ogden High School superintendent who is running for the state House, filed his statement of organization last week with the State Board of Elections and reported that he started the race with no money on hand.

Acklin is one of three Republicans seeking their party's nomination in the 102nd House District. The others are Randy Peterson of Paris and former state Rep. Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville.

Halbrook reported $102.38 in his campaign fund on Sept. 30 while Peterson, who formed his committee on Oct. 2, also said he had no money.

You can expect those numbers to change significantly after the next filing period in early January. The primary election is in March.

Independent Maps

Cynthia Canary, executive director of the Independent Map Amendment campaign in Illinois, will be on the University of Illinois campus next Tuesday to speak about the campaign to get a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot next November that would change the way that Illinois' legislative districts are drawn. Instead of having them created by legislators, the districts would be drawn by an independent commission.

Canary will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Animal Sciences Laboratory, 1207. W. Gregory Drive, U.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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