Trump-related tumult triggering surge of Democratic candidates

Trump-related tumult triggering surge of Democratic candidates

CHARLESTON — A third Democrat has filed to run in next year's Democratic primary in the 15th Congressional District, which makes three more than the number of Democrats who wanted to take on longtime Congressman John Shimkus in 2016.

Kevin Gaither of Charleston filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission last week, joining Carl Spoerer of Mahomet and Anthony March of Danville as contenders in the 33-county district that includes much of eastern and southern Illinois.

Last year, Shimkus was unopposed for an 11th term, and only one Democrat filed for the race in 2014 and 2012.

But there has been a surge of Democratic congressional candidates, not just in East Central Illinois, but in the rest of the state and nation too.

"I would say there's an unprecedented level of candidates stepping up and wanting to run, many of whom have never run for office before," said Rachel Irwin, a regional spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose region includes Illinois. "We're seeing teachers, doctors, veterans who are saying that they want to get off the sidelines and find another way to serve their community."

In Illinois' 13th Congressional District, four Democrats have filed to run for the seat now held by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

In the 12th District, five Democrats have announced to run against two-term Congressman Mike Bost of Murphysboro.

And in the Chicago suburbs, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton has eight Democratic challengers and U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano has four.

University of Illinois Springfield political science Professor Chris Mooney said President Donald Trump's controversial stand on issues and his low approval ratings (generally about 40 percent nationally but 36 percent in Illinois, according to Gallup Analytics) have energized Democrats.

Candidates are more likely to run when they think they can win, he said.

"Why waste time and money in a certain losing cause? And even though there is usually someone willing to run on most offices at higher levels (good party soldiers, filling out the tickets), the quality and quantity of challengers rises with better odds of winning," he said in an email. "Therefore, what this political science understanding would indicate is that Dems think that these reps are vulnerable. This is likely because Trump and related policies and actions are so unpopular in many places."

And a convergence of issues and circumstances may make 2018 an especially inviting opportunity for Democrats.

"The key is that with Trump's low approval ratings, controversy over the health care bill(s), and the fact that the GOP won most of the marginal seats in 2016 all point to better prospects for the Dems in 2018, and thus, more Dems making a run at it," Mooney said.

Shimkus' district is the most conservative in Illinois — Trump got more than 70 percent of the vote there — but there is still an unusual number of Democrats willing to take on the congressman who Gaither said is "out of touch" with his district.

"I've met with Deb Detmers, his district director, and she's wonderful. But Shimkus never comes and meets with the constituents. When you do meet with Deb and talk to her about these issues or you send a letter to his office, the letters they send back never address the things you brought up," said Gaither, a 42-year-old tutor who grew up in Sullivan. "Shimkus is so out of touch. I've not met many people who even know who he is. They don't even know his name. They just kind of scratch their heads."

Gaither said his primary reason for running is to fix the Affordable Care Act and work to preserve health care coverage, something he did when he lived in Indiana until about 2013.

"We managed to provide coverage so that high-risk groups were protected. When I left, Governor Pence took over and they literally ripped apart the comprehensive insurance that we had stitched together for those people. And people died. There was an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana," Gaither said. "Now he's the vice president and there's the same kind of policies being pushed across the entire country. It would be devastating. And that's really one of the motivating factors for me to get into this race."

Gaither said he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and appreciates the value of health care coverage.

"I have my own health care issues. My health declined and I came back to Illinois to deal with them and get better. Once I did, I moved to Charleston here," he said. "I know firsthand how vital health care is for people and playing around with it is very dangerous."

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
CallSaul wrote on July 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm

If the bumbling Trump/Ryan/McConnell Republicans don't succeed in completely repealing Obamacare --- which they won't, of course --- they'll enrage the rubes they've been lying to for the last 7 years about how easy doing so would be if they'd just give them control of congress and the White House.

If they succeed in sabotaging Obamacare --- which seems likely to at least some degree --- they'll enrage the rest of us who won't like the fact that they stole healthcare from more than 20 million Americans and ruined it for everyone else just so they could give a taxbreak to their already obscenely wealthy masters and toss a bone to the rubes by attacking Obama's signature policy.

Either way, 11/2018 will not be kind to the Trump/McConnell/Ryan toadys and lickspittles like Davis, Shimkus and the other Reps in congress.

This is while the bumbing buffoon continues to attact the reactionary right's favorite attack dog, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, baffling and angering the rightwingers to an incredible degree.

Not to mention the daily drip drip drip of still yet further revelations about the campaign's and regime's collusion with Putin and his henchmen.

And all the while, 11/2018 just keeps getting closer and closer...