SAVOY — While U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson isn't officially endorsing any of the four candidates competing for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 13th District, Johnson said he believes Urbana native Erika Harold would be "a terrific choice."
"I have been in government and politics for 44 years, and I don't know if I have ever encountered an individual who has better credentials, would be a better candidate or would be a more outstanding congressman than Erika Harold," he said.
Johnson made his comments Friday at a press conference at Willard Airport devoted to his opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Johnson stressed that he has been asked by the county Republican chairmen, who will be making the selection, not to endorse a candidate.
Harold, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois and Harvard Law School, is opposed by Jerry Clarke of Urbana, Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Kathy Wassink of Shipman.
Johnson said he doesn't know Davis or Wassink very well, but he has had a close friendship with Clarke for 25 to 30 years.
Last month Johnson said in an emailed statement that he didn't believe Clarke, his former chief of staff, or any of his current or former staff members should be a candidate to replace him.
"We have four well-qualified people, but there is an overwhelming outpouring of support for Erika Harold," Johnson said.
"In a time when we have too many Tim Johnsons who have been doing this for 44 years, she is a breath of fresh air."
Johnson said that, as far as he knows, Harold — an attorney and a former Miss America — would become the first black female Republican congressman if she is elected.
"If she is chosen and elected, I think it would be an historic time for America," Johnson said. "She is a first class young lady."
Johnson said he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act because it calls for a slowdown of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, because it increases spending on core defense programs and because it allows for the permanent detainment of U.S. citizens suspected for terrorist activities.
"We have failed to deal with issues of fiscal responsibility, dramatically increasing the appropriations for the defense department even above the President's requested level," Johnson said. "We have passed an act in the House that I think is, not only over the edge, but fails to address any significant issues with respect to our involvement overseas and any significant issues with respect to human rights here at home."