Giving voters a choice

Giving voters a choice

The political maneuvering in Illinois' 13th Congressional District shows that the best-laid plans of party bosses often go astray.

If misery loves company, Republican Party leaders in Illinois' 13th Congressional District surely are delighted to share their plight with Democratic bigwigs.

Chieftains in both parties wanted to call the shots in terms of voter choice in the March 2014 primary election, and they would have done so but for one small problem — it's a free country.

Erika Harold upset the GOP applecart a couple of months ago when she announced her challenge to Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis for their party's nomination. Just a couple of weeks ago, University of Illinois physics Professor George Gollin said he'll be seeking the Democratic Party's nomination, taking on Ann Callis, a former Edwardsville judge and the choice of party leaders like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The angst of party leaders is understandable. All they care about is winning the congressional seat, and they hate wasting resources in sometimes fractious and expensive primary elections.

But the public is best served by choice and competition. That's why we welcome Harold, a former Miss America and Harvard law graduate, to the GOP contest with Davis, and that's also why we welcome Gollin to the Democratic contest against Callis.

It's our hope that their presence in the primary will spark an issue-oriented debate that will flesh out the candidates' positions on a variety of important issues.

The redrawn 13th district, once the 15th district, was represented for many years by now-retired U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson. Unfortunately, he decided not to run for re-election in 2012 after winning his party's primary election.

That required GOP leaders to appoint a candidate to fill Johnson's ballot spot, and they selected Davis. He faced Democrat David Gill, a physician and an upset winner against the party's favorite candidate in the primary, and they waged a campaign dominated by negative advertising and largely devoid of any sensible discussion of the issues.

Perhaps next year's race will be better; it certainly couldn't be worse. It's our hope that Gollin and Callis and Davis and Harold will bring out the best in each other in the primary race, leaving whoever wins the primary an even better candidate in the general election.

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