Everything about the race between U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Democrat challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield is close, from the money raised to the polling to the money spent on television advertising.
So far in this election cycle, Londrigan has raised $4.47 million (as of Sept. 30) and Davis has brought in $4.22 million.
The latest poll — of 400 likely voters taken Oct. 1-6 by Tulchin Research, which has an “average” polling record according to the website FiveThirtyEight — gave Londrigan a 5-percentage-point lead. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent, however.
She lost the same congressional district to Davis in 2018 by less than a percentage point.
And both the Davis and Londrigan campaigns, and special-interest groups supporting and opposing them, are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars per week into the race.
Nearly $13 million had been spent on the race through Sept. 30 in the 13th Congressional District, which includes Champaign-Urbana and runs on a diagonal through central Illinois to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.
Davis had spent $3.9 million, Londrigan $3.4 million and a host of other groups ranging from the American Chemistry Council to Women Vote, a superPAC affiliated with Emily’s List, spent $5.5 million more.
At least four outside groups — the GOP Congressional Leadership Fund, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the GOP House Majority PAC and Women Vote — will spend another $52,000 this week on television ads within the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield market.
Lesser amounts are being spent in the more-expensive St. Louis TV market, where a 30-second spot on the local evening news can go for $1,250, as compared to $300 in the Champaign market.
The great irony is that all of this time, money and effort is being spent on a two-year congressional term in a district that won’t exist in 2022.
Today’s 14-county 13th District will look different in two years. Illinois
will lose at least one congressional
seat after the 2020 Census and the
13th District almost certainly will grow to include more territory. So both parties will be starting all over in 2022.
The 13th District has been good to Rodney Davis, but sometimes just barely. He won his first term in 2012 by just 1,002 votes out of 294,385 cast. He won more comfortably in 2014
(58.7 to 41.3 percent) and 2016 (60-40) but bested Londrigan by only 2,058 votes in 2018.
This time, Davis will be handicapped by an increasingly unpopular president at the top of the Republican ticket. Donald Trump got 49.4 percent of the vote in the 13th District in 2016, but the Tulchin Research poll showed that he had 39 percent of the vote in early October against Democrat Joe Biden.
Presidential pollingTrump got just 39 percent of the vote in Illinois in 2016, and the scant amount of polling so far shows a similar outcome this year. In a late September poll of likely voters by Victory Research, Biden had a 53-40 lead.
Unusual campaign contributionsWillie Wilson, who is running for
the U.S. Senate from Illinois on the Willie Wilson Party ticket, has given some unusual campaign contributions this year.
Wilson, a Black businessman from Chicago, ran for president as a Democrat in 2016. But this year, he’s given donations to conservative Republicans from downstate Illinois.
That includes $5,000 to state Rep. Darren Bailey, the Louisville Republican who has sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker over COVID-19-related restrictions. Bailey is seeking to replace the retiring state Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon.
Wilson also gave $3,000 to Republican state representative candidate Adam Niemerg of Dieterich and $3,000 to Republican Rep. Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City.
All three attended a meeting in Chicago in June, hosted by Wilson, at which legislators and community leaders discussed creating a state commission to examine giving money to the descendants of slaves to lift them out of poverty.
Wilson campaign spokesman D. Scott Winslow said Wilson and Bailey have met several times this year, including a session in early spring at Bailey’s farm.
“There are people of good merit in all parties and in all walks of life,” he said, “and Dr. Wilson enjoys meeting with them and talking with them.”
Wilson sometimes goes by “doctor,” although he has only a seventh-grade education. He has a doctor of divinity degree from Mount Carmel Theological Seminary and a doctor of humane letters from Chicago Baptist Institute International.