It was assumed after Rodney Davis' election in 2012 that he and John Shimkus, whose downstate Illinois homes are about 80 miles apart and who are linked by Davis' 16 years as a chief congressional aide to Shimkus, would have similar voting records. But no one knew how similar.
Congressmen John Shimkus and Rodney Davis have been compadres a long time.
It was assumed after Davis' election in 2012 that he and Shimkus, whose downstate Illinois homes are about 80 miles apart and who are linked by Davis' 16 years as a chief congressional aide to Shimkus, would have similar voting records.
But no one knew how similar.
So far, in 17 months together in Congress, their voting record is almost identical. According to the website opencongress.org, Davis and Shimkus have differed only on three of 93 key votes (where neither abstained) in the 113th Congress:
— In one vote, taken in March, Davis was one of only 10 Republicans to vote against a Republican-led measure that he said would hinder the president's ability to set aside lands for national parks and monuments. Shimkus voted for the bill.
— In February Davis voted with most Republicans in opposing a temporary debt limit extension, which passed. Shimkus was among 28 Republicans to vote for the deal, which also was supported by Speaker John Boehner and Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Wheaton.
— The only other disagreement came in April 2013 when Davis was one of only 10 Republicans to vote no on the "Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act," a measure which froze the work of the National Labor Relations Board. The measure passed with the votes of 219 Republicans, including Shimkus, and none from Democrats.
Considering all roll calls, including routine votes on congratulatory resolutions and motions to adjourn, they've voted together on 670 of 820 roll calls, or 82 percent, in which neither abstained.
Opencongress.org says that Davis votes with the Republican Party 94 percent of the time and Shimkus is with his GOP colleagues on 95 percent of votes.
In another congressional voting rating, the National Journal found that based on 111 House votes in 2013, Davis had a composite conservative voting score of 55, making him the 212th most conservative member of the House. Shimkus' score was 52.7, making him the 222nd most conservative House member.
Tied for the most liberal member of the House, incidentally, was Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Chicago Democrat. The most conservative was Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.
Davis vulnerable or not?
In December 2012, one month after the last congressional election, the Washington Post declared Davis among the 10 most politically vulnerable congressmen in the 2014 elections.
This January the National Journal's Scott Bland ranked the 13th Congressional District No. 16 among the congressional seats "most likely to flip" this fall.
Last week Washington, D.C.-based Roll Call put Davis somewhere between 11th and 18th most vulnerable among congressional incumbents this fall, placing him in an "honorable mention" category outside of the 10 members of Congress most at risk. That seems to be a slight improvement from where Roll Call had Davis last November, also in the "honorable mentions," but with just three other congressmen.
But by one measure — the amount of "independent expenditures" by groups not affiliated with the candidate or the Republican or Democratic parties — the 13th District race isn't, yet, of any interest. The groups haven't spent a penny on the district yet this election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.
That's a big change from two years ago when such groups dumped $6.9 million into the three-way race between Davis, Democrat David Gill and independent John Hartman.
Instead the independent expenditures this year have been focused mostly on congressional races in Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Idaho. The groups did spend about $6 million last year in Illinois' 2nd District, where Robin Kelly was elected to replace the convicted Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Don't expect the lull in the 13th District to continue much longer, though. Two years ago the first independent expenditure ad, an anti-Gill spot by The New Prosperity Foundation, began in early August.
Early spending by the independent groups will be an indication of how vulnerable they think Davis is in 2014.
Non-story of the week, part 1
The Illinois Republican Party reported last Monday that 13th District Democratic candidate Ann Callis "was caught today plagiarizing key phrases, issue positions and entire sections of the 'issues' pages on her website."
The GOP said that Callis had lifted issues statements from the campaign website of Staci Appel, a Democrat running for Congress in Iowa.
"Ann Callis thinks she deserves to be your congresswoman, but she has to steal someone else's words to tell you why," crowed Jack Dorgan, head of the Illinois Republican Party.
Turns out, though, that Appel plagiarized from Callis.
So, whaddya know? The Republicans then set their sights on Appel.
"The fact that Staci Appel knowingly copied content should concern a lot of Iowa voters," said NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton said. "If Staci Appel committed plagiarism in college, she would be kicked out of the university immediately. The same standard should apply to Appel's plagiarizing congressional campaign."
And Dorgan and the Illinois Republicans never issued a correction to their initial charge.
"We're glad that our research was able to bring to light how Democrats are plagiarizing off of each other," GOP spokesman Andrew Wheelhouse said after the Appel campaign acknowledged the mistake.
The Dems get the last word in this tale so critical to the survival of the Republic.
"It is clear the Illinois Republican Party is so desperate to distract voters from Congressman Rodney Davis' track record of broken promises in Washington that they continue to push blatant lies about Ann Callis more than 24 hours after their absurd attacks were proven false," said Callis spokesman Marshall Cohen.
Non-story of the week, part 2
A Metro East area legal affairs publication reported last week that Vice President Joe Biden would be in Madison County this month to campaign for Callis. That too was wrong.
Too bad; Biden appearances always have such great news potential.
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.