SPRINGFIELD — Following a sometimes-bitter primary election, 13th Congressional District Democrats held a unity breakfast Thursday morning in Springfield, but without their defeated congressional candidate.
Matt Goetten, the Greene County state's attorney who narrowly lost the race to Bloomington physician David Gill, missed the event attended by about 100 people at an electricians' hall in Springfield.
Gill spokesman Michael Richards said Goetten was busy in court.
But Bill Houlihan, an aide to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who had supported Goetten in the primary, called for Democrats in the 14-county central Illinois district to get together behind Gill.
"As most of you know, Senator Durbin was not for David Gill in the primary," he said. "But we're one big family and sometimes in a primary the family doesn't get along. In this case Senator Durbin decided to be for somebody else. But we're here today to tell you that we can win this seat with David Gill. If we're united we can win."
Houlihan referred to 13th District Republicans who are seeking a candidate following the sudden announcement earlier this month by GOP nominee Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana that he would not seek a seventh term.
"We know what's going on on the other side. Congressman Johnson and Jerry Clarke cooked up this resignation," he said in reference to Johnson's former chief of staff who is one of about 10 candidates for the Republican appointment. "We know they cooked it up. We should let the voters know that."
Gill joked that "I don't shy away from challenges and I'm ready to take on any Republican that they throw up against me, up to and including Miss America."
Another of the potential Republican candidates is Erika Harold, formerly of Urbana, who was Miss America in 2003. She is now an attorney in Chicago.