A few days before Election Day, the Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District has finally come to life.
David Gill, the Bloomington physician making his fourth run for Congress, released a poll taken Feb. 28 that found him with a 30 percent to 18 percent lead over newcomer Matt Goetten, the Greene County state's attorney. But 52 percent of those polled said they were undecided.
Goetten, meanwhile, went on the air with his first television commercial, a 30-second spot called "Serving," that shows him driving a pickup truck and talking about the need to bring jobs to central Illinois and "to protect Medicare and Social Security." It also shows him with Sen. Dick Durbin, who has endorsed him.
Gill also is running paid advertisements, his campaign said.
"We can't release details, but we've started advertising as well," said Michael Richards, a spokesman for Gill.
Both campaigns filed campaign disclosure reports showing increased fundraising in January and February. Goetten reported collecting $70,159 in the period Jan. 1 to Feb. 29, with $175,365 on hand at the close of the period. In the previous quarter, Goetten had collected $143,312, although $50,000 of that was a personal loan.
Gill reported having $50,481 on hand after bringing in $56,478 during the two-month period. By comparison, he had raised $45,770 in the quarter between Oct. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011.
"It's increasing into March. We're just hoping we can steer it into getting David's record out by Election Day," Richards said. "We're happy, but we want more. We have less than two weeks to go and we want to spend every cent we can get our hands on to get David's message out."
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, also filed a disclosure report. It showed him with $91,539 in receipts during the period, and $464,950 on hand on Feb. 29. Johnson has two opponents in the March 20 Republican primary, but neither of them has filed a report with the Federal Election Commission.
Gill's poll, taken for his campaign by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C., was of 602 likely Democratic primary voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
It showed strong Gill support in Champaign-Urbana, where he has about two-thirds of the Democratic vote, and in Bloomington-Normal, where he was at close to 60 percent. Both communities are more familiar with Gill than the Springfield and the Metro East areas, where he has not run before.
"The poll shows that people who know David in the eastern half of the district like him and that there are areas, especially Springfield and Decatur, where nether candidate is well-known," Richards said. "It's a race to introduce ourselves to the people in that part of the district."
The large number of undecideds means that advertising and campaigning in the last days of the campaign will be critical.
"We think that we're going to be competitive in the ads wars and that David has a good message for the undecideds," Richards said. "What this says is that both candidates have a lot of work to do, especially in areas like Decatur and Christian County and Springfield."
A spokesman for Goetten said the majority of undecideds "is the key number."
"Doctor Gill has had a lot of opportunity the last few years to build up his name identification and get the public to know him," said spokesman Vlad Gutman, "and yet 52 percent of the people, at least at this point, are not behind him. And we just began doing mail and our television advertising after that poll was done."
Gutman said Goetten's message will be one of job creation and preserving Medicare and Social Security.
"Those are the things that people are talking about," he said. "So we feel pretty good about our ability to move people in our direction."
Goetten and Gill will be the featured speakers at Sunday night's Champaign County Democrats spring dinner at the Hawthorn Suites Banquet Center in Champaign.