URBANA — The two major party candidates in the high-spending and high-visibility 13th Congressional District race spent their time Monday in different pursuits.
Democrat David Gill met with volunteer canvassers and phone bank callers in Decatur, Champaign and Bloomington-Normal, and stopped in Monticello to call on local businesses. He scheduled no large rallies or pre-Election Day speeches.
"Our view," said Gill campaign manager Sherry Greenberg, "is that rallies are a waste of staff time as well as our supporters' time." She said the Democratic candidate would rather thank and work with volunteer supporters "than put on flashy events."
But Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville held events with other GOP candidates in Decatur, Springfield and Normal, and ended with a small campaign rally with U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, on the University of Illinois campus. About 100 people, including dozens of College Republicans and a number of other GOP candidates, attended the rally.
It was a rather tame ending to what has been a unique, expensive and controversial congressional campaign that a year ago looked entirely different. That was when U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, was running for another term and Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten was the odds-on Democratic candidate. But Goetten lost the Democratic primary to Gill, and Johnson dropped his re-election bid. Davis was chosen by Republican county chairmen to replace him.
Since then, the race has been marked by controversial television ads and extraordinary expenditures by outside super PACs and other groups. As of Monday, according to the Federal Election Commission, $6.7 million worth of spending by so-called "independent" groups — those independent of the Davis and Gill campaigns — has been spent in the district. The website opensecrets.org said the 13th District ranks No. 12 in the country for independent spending in a congressional race.
But at Monday night's Davis rally at the UI, the talk was all about improving the economy and working to get out the vote Tuesday.
"We've got a very crucial election tomorrow and we cannot waste any time," he said. "The Democrats have bragged about how many voter contacts they've made over the last weekend. That should scare us because that means they're out there working, they're out there building a ground game to compete against all you guys.
"If you live in a fraternity house, if you live in the dorms, go back tonight and recruit some more people to help us tomorrow. There's only a few hours left in this race and this race could shape the future of this nation."
Davis said that "Champaign County has opened its arms to me and the local candidates here have been phenomenal."
Among those at the rally were several people who did not support Davis in the Republican selection process last spring. They included Champaign County Republican Chair Habeeb Habeeb and Lanae Clarke, the wife of Jerry Clarke, one of the candidates defeated by Davis.
"I think Champaign County is going to be a tremendous part of our victory tomorrow," he said. "I've been here in Champaign and Urbana, more than any other part of the district over the last six months because it's so important to our success."