Gill, Johnson battle for seat in rematch of 2004

By Kathleen Foody

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories about local elections. This story is about the race for the 15th Congressional District.

For the first aritcle of the series, featuring the state asembly 103rd district race, click here.

Illinois 15th Congressional District race is a rematch of 2004, pitting Republican incumbent Tim Johnson against Democratic challenger Dr. David Gill for the second time.

Johnson, an Urbana resident, began his political career on the Urbana City Council and then served as state representative for the 104th District. He has served three terms as U.S. congressman for the 15th District.

“He’s served the district’s interests, and the voters have put him in office for 30 years,” Phil Bloomer, press secretary for Johnson, said. “He must be doing something right.”

Gill, an emergency room physician from Clinton, Ill., ran for the seat in 2004 but was defeated by Johnson. He earned 39 percent of the vote, said Jessica Frank, Champaign regional coordinator for the Gill campaign.

“David was a complete political newcomer in 2004, and he built up a mountain of name recognition by going around the district shaking hands,” Frank said. “The biggest difference between 2006 and 2004 is our campaign infrastructure. Our campaign strategies are working well and have expanded David’s name recognition even more.”

The Gill campaign has raised four times as much in fund raising compared to 2004, and volunteers have increased tenfold, Jeremy Bowling, Gill’s campaign manager, said.

Both candidates are University alumni, and both are focusing on funding for higher education. The 15th District includes Eastern Illinois University, Illinois State University and the University, as well as at least ten community colleges, Bloomer said.

“We cannot keep raising interest levels for student loans and cutting Pell Grants,” Bowling said. “Dr. Gill believes we must make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to go to college.”

Bloomer said Johnson opposed cuts to the number of Pell Grants and increasing interest for student loans while in office and would continue to work for higher-education institutions if re-elected.

Johnson is also a member of the House Science Committee, giving him influence over which institutions receive research and development funding, Bloomer said.

Bowling said Gill is also concerned with health care, improving trade relations and improving the American economy.

“The slow shipment of our jobs overseas is unacceptable,” he said. “That isn’t fair to American workers, and it’s not helping to improve our economy.”

Bloomer said Johnson supports the continuation of economic policies instituted over the last six years that have driven the economy’s improvement.

Johnson also opposes programs that could harm the environment, including drilling for oil in the Alaskan refuge, and wants to work to improve the agricultural economy for U.S. farmers.

“If you look at Congressman Johnson’s record, you can see he’s a guy who does things for himself,” Bloomer said. “If there is a choice to be made between reflexively voting along party lines or in line with the district’s interests, he’ll always vote for the district.”