CHAMPAIGN — Taylorville Republican Rodney Davis has won the endorsement of the Illinois Farm Bureau's political action committee, backing that will yield him in-kind support in his 13th Congressional District race against Democrat David Gill, a Bloomington physician.
The endorsement was announced Wednesday, following interview sessions Tuesday in Springfield with both candidates.
"His basic knowledge, plus his ability to hit the ground running, is really good. He knows a lot of people in Washington already, so he's in a good position to represent this district and Champaign County," said Lin Warfel, the president of the Champaign County Farm Bureau board and one of 10 farmers on the Farm Bureau board that decided the endorsement.
Warfel said Davis' position on free trade also was crucial.
"He's very much in favor of free trade. He actually understands how important free trade is to Illinois agriculture. He's got that good background to understand that," said Warfel. "Dr. Gill does not like free trade and would work against that. That would have a huge impact on Illinois and on agriculture. That was a very important issue for us."
Warfel said the PAC board met with the candidates separately for more than 90 minutes.
"Dr. Gill was good, he was very impressive. For the kinds of things he knows, he's good. But as far as fitting this district, Rodney Davis was much better," said Warfel, who acknowledged that he is a conservative.
Gill spokesman Michael Richards said, "We look forward to working with the farmers of central Illinois on issues like federal drought assistance and working with the Farm Bureau after David is elected."
The Farm Bureau endorsement will mean an in-kind contribution to the Davis campaign, probably a paid mailing or advertising.
"It can mean money and in this case it will mean money," said Warfel. "In the case of Rodney Davis our committee voted to give him some money. The money is donated in-kind. We don't hand him a check for X-dollars."
Davis, appearing at the Farm Bureau's Champaign office, said he was honored to get the endorsement.
"I want to go to Washington and I want to be an advocate for the Illinois agricultural economy. I want to be an advocate for small business owners and family farmers," he said.
In view of the ongoing drought, Davis said the most important thing the federal government can do is provide a crop insurance program in the new farm bill under consideration "and have that safety net that we need. Farmers are telling me that that needs to be the center point of any comprehensive new farm bill."
Davis also said he is skeptical of claims that the drought is related to climate change.
"I don't," he said. "I've talked to some folks who have worked for the weather service for years and I asked them, 'Is this global warming?' They say no, that's it's a cyclical thing. I would love to see data on both sides. What I look forward to is being able to sit in a committee hearing and asking the questions so that I can find out if weather patterns are going to get worse and be part of some global climate change, or if we're just talking historical weather patterns."