U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, the Urbana Republican, doesn't get to call the tune in choosing his successor on the November ballot.
Electoral politics is a nasty business. Appointive politics is even worse because it features all of the usual acrimony and intrigue but without the cleansing effect of sunlight.
So it was entirely predictable that there would be discord surrounding the recent announcement by U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson that, after winning the Republican Party's primary nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives, he planned to withdraw his name from the ballot and not run for re-election.
His timing, obviously, could not have been worse. Now Johnson's empty ballot spot will have to be filled, as the law requires, by the 14 Republican county chairmen in the new and mammoth 13th Congressional District.
In other words, voters are being cut out of the process, and some of those vying for the party's nomination suspect that Johnson's decision was motivated by a desire on Johnson's part to provide one candidate — former Johnson chief of staff Jerry Clarke of Urbana — an advantage. That charge of political skullduggery has led Johnson to respond that no one who works for him or has worked for him, meaning Clarke, should be considered for the party nomination.
It's a strange set of circumstances. But one issue could not be more clear: Just as Johnson would not be permitted to name his successor he is similarly barred from vetoing any candidate.
Today is the final day for candidates to submit their applications, and the 14 county chairmen have a moral obligation to select the individual they believe will be the most effective candidate and, if elected in November, the most effective House member. Johnson's concern that someone might think ill of him depending on how this plays out is simply irrelevant.
Johnson's sensitivity on this subject is hard to understand. All kinds of people say all kinds of things about politicians, many of them unkind and untrue. It goes with the territory. As President Truman once advised, if you're in politics and you want a friend, get a dog.
It's even more difficult to credit considering the remarks Johnson made at the news conference he held to announce his decision to retire from politics. He went out of his way to state that two of his staffers, chief of staff Mark Shelden and press spokesman Phil Bloomer, would be worthy successors to him.
One minute he's touting current staffers, albeit two who are not interested in succeeding him, and the next he's disqualifying all present and former staffers because of concerns over what some disgruntled pol might say.
Johnson is, of course, entitled to his opinion. But the GOP county chairmen should ignore his declaration and select the nominee they believe will be the most effective candidate and member of Congress.