Rodney Davis has received what may be the most cherished endorsement in the 13th Congressional District race: that of the National Rifle Association.
Davis, a Taylorville Republican, and Democrat David Gill of Bloomington, along with independent John Hartman of Edwardsville, all have described themselves to The News-Gazette as opponents of more gun control.
"I don't think there's any need for Uncle Sam to be enacting any new laws at this time," Gill said earlier this year. Davis said: "We have enough laws on the books to deal with firearms and ammunition." Said Hartman: "Basically I have the same answer and that is that the government should be small and we should trust in the people's conscience to do what they think is right."
But it was Davis who got the backing of the NRA, which is especially influential in the parts of the 13th District outside of Champaign-Urbana. Davis was given a grade of A by the group, while Gill got a B-. Hartman was not graded.
Gill's past may have kept him from winning the NRA's backing this year.
"The difference that caused Gill to be rated lower," said NRA spokeswoman Jacqueline Otto, "was that in the past he's been on record for supporting things such as the reinstatement of the 1994 federal semi-automatic firearms ban, for requiring background checks on gun sales between private citizens at gun shows and for requiring licensing for gun possession. Those are all issues that would cause a candidate to be rated lower."
Those issues were not in the 2012 candidate questionnaire, Otto said, "but Mr. Gill has run for office before and although he doesn't have a voting record, having run for office before he has several previous candidate questionnaires on file in which he voiced his support for these issues.
"Since there is no voting record at all for either of these candidates, it's our responsibility to inform the NRA members on the whole story on these candidates."
Otto said she did not know how many NRA members live in the 13th District, nor did she know whether the endorsement would mean campaign support.
"But the information will be sent out in the form of mailers and literature," Otto said.
In a statement, Davis said, "I am an unabashed supporter of our Second Amendment rights. In Congress, I will be a fierce supporter of the rights of gun owners and sportsmen."
Gill spokeswoman Lucy Stein said the Democrat was disappointed "that the NRA did not choose to back a candidate who is strongly supportive of Second Amendment rights.
"To the extent Dr. Gill's position has evolved over the years, it is because he has seen how vulnerable potential victims, especially women, are when they cannot defend themselves. Dr. Gill worries that predators in Illinois know that potential victims cannot carry a concealed weapon. He believes that concealed carry will reduce crime."
More debates. Two more debates have been scheduled with the three candidates in the 13th Congressional District. All three candidates have agreed to the additional forums.
The first will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at Illinois State University in Normal.
The second will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. It will be broadcast live on WICS-TV, channel 20 in Springfield. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Citizens Club of Springfield are co-hosting. Rich Bradley, retired news director at WUIS-FM in Springfield, will serve as moderator.
The final debate, already scheduled, will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at WILL-TV in Urbana. It also will be broadcast live.
Legislative endorsements by the NRA. Every area incumbent state senator has been endorsed by the NRA.
That includes Democrat Mike Frerichs of Champaign in the 52nd District (both he and Republican opponent John Bambenek got A grades), and Republican Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Dale Righter of Mattoon. In addition, unopposed GOP Senate candidates Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Jason Barickman of Champaign also won the group's endorsements. All had grades of A.
In what may be the biggest downstate state Senate race involving non-incumbents, both Republican Mike McElroy and Democrat Andy Manar got A grades. The NRA made no endorsement in the 49th District race, which includes Decatur and parts of Springfield.
In the House, the NRA endorsed all incumbents with the exception of state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. She got an F grade from the group, but her Republican opponent, Rob Meister of Champaign, was given a "?" grade. That, according to the organization, means that he refused to answer a candidate questionnaire, "often an indication of indifference, if not outright hostility, to gun owners' and sportsmen's rights." So neither candidate was endorsed in the 103rd District that includes almost all Champaign-Urbana.
But GOP Reps. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth, Adam Brown of Decatur, Chad Hays of Catlin, Dan Brady of Bloomington, Josh Harms of Watseka and Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville all received A grades and were endorsed.
Danos disclosure. George Danos, the Democratic candidate for Champaign County auditor, is the first local candidate to file a third-quarter campaign disclosure statement. It shows him with $6,821 on hand, including a $2,311 personal loan he made to the campaign.
Danos also had $250 contributions from county board member Chris Alix of Urbana and former Urbana City Council member Esther Patt, plus $200 from Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, a former county auditor. He also received $200 from both the AFL-CIO of Champaign County and the local electricians' union. His biggest donor is Jonathan Goodwin of Champaign, whom Danos described as a social and academic acquaintance.
Danos is opposed by Republican John Farney of Urbana, who reported in June that he had $5,540 on hand. Since then he has received $1,000 from the campaign fund of retiring U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.
Farney fundraiser. John and Maureen Reed of Champaign will host a fundraiser for Farney from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Urbana Country Club. Tickets are $35 per person, $50 for a couple, and will be available at the door. For details or to RSVP, call 637-5468.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.