GOP candidates are lining up
There is no shortage of applicants wishing to fill U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's spot on the November ballot.
Eleven candidates — and counting — are vying for the Republican congressional nomination in the 13th Congressional District in the wake of U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's surprising decision not to run for re-election and retire at the end of his term.
One might reasonably ask where all those candidates were during the December filing period. The answer is that most of them were biding their time as they waited for a day they probably thought would never come — the day Johnson voluntarily called it quits.
The day not only came, it came when no one expected it — shortly after Johnson was safely renominated and facing another run against Democratic candidate David Gill.
Johnson's timing, of course, could not have been worse. Republican voters throughout this mammoth district, which runs from Urbana to the Missouri border, will be denied an opportunity to choose their nominee.
Instead, as required by law in these rare circumstances, the 14 county Republican Party chairmen in the 13th District will choose their party's nominee.
Casting weighted votes — meaning some chairmen's votes are more valuable than others — they will select the candidate they think is best suited to win the election and represent the district's residents in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It is somewhat surprising to see just how many people think of themselves as congressional material and have offered themselves to take Johnson's place.
There are four current state legislators (Adam Brown, Kyle McCarter, Sam McCann and Dan Brady), a former state legislator turned lobbyist (Mike Tate), two congressional staffers (Jerry Clarke and Rodney Davis), a real estate agent (David Blumenshine), a businessman (Jim Bob Morris), a truck driver (Sam Spradlin) and a retired steel worker (Frank Metzger).
Some of them, of course, are far better qualified than others to make a challenging electoral run and, if victorious, carry out the duties of an important federal office.
Sometime in late April or early May -- it's not clear when -- the county chairmen will make their choices, and the general election race officially will be under way.
It will, however, be a far different campaign than what many expected.
Establishment Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, were not happy that Gill, a physician, had decided to make another run for the Democratic Party's nomination. They persuaded Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten to get into the race and made it clear that the Washington, D.C., power-brokers wanted Goetten, not Gill.
When Gill won the primary by a narrow margin, there was considerable speculation that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would concentrate its limited financial resources elsewhere. But Johnson's retirement changes the complexion of the race considerably.
The Democratic and Republican candidates will be competing for an open congressional seat in a 14-county district in which neither is particularly well known. It's a whole different ball game.
Democrats got a break when Johnson decided to step down. That's why Republicans better choose wisely and be ready for a fight.