SPRINGFIELD — —
(AP) — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis on Monday formally kicked off a re-election campaign expected to be nearly as tough as his first run for the job, with a Republican challenger standing between him and an appearance on the November 2014 ballot.
The Taylorville Republican, who narrowly defeated Democrat David Gill last fall, is facing a primary challenge from Erika Harold, an Urbana attorney and former Miss America in the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from Champaign southwest to the Missouri border near St. Louis.
Davis is considerably better funded than Harold at this point in the campaign, but the prospect of having a primary challenger with moderate name recognition means that he'll be forced to utilize precious resources that otherwise could have stockpiled for the general election race deemed one of the nation's top congressional contests.
Beyond the primary, there are three Democrats vying to unseat Davis. They include social policy analyst David Green, physicist George Gollin and retired judge Ann Callis. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made it clear that the seat is a top target in its drive to reclaim the House in 2014.
Speaking Sunday at an Illinois Democratic Party event, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin predicted trouble for Davis in the general election because of his vote to defund the Affordable Care Act.
"If there was anyone who thought Congressman Rodney Davis was going to be moderate or independent in his approach, there's not much evidence to convict him," Durbin said. He described the 13th District as a "pretty evenly divided district."
On Monday, Davis called Durbin "dead wrong."
"An overwhelming majority of American do not agree with Obamacare," he said.
Davis started the day in Urbana Monday before traveling to Bloomington, Decatur, Springfield and Edwardsville.
Flanked by his wife, Shannon, and local Republican officials in Springfield, it was clear the first-term Republican from Taylorville will rely on his hometown roots in the 2014 campaign as he did in the 2012 race.
"I wouldn't be standing here without the guidance you have given me over the years," Davis said at a stop at the Sangamon County farm bureau, reminiscing about working in his parents' local restaurant, attending events in Springfield, working for Congressman John Shimkus' office.
Davis and Harold are closely aligned on a majority of issues, with the exception of the internet sales tax, which she opposes and he supports.
Davis said he will campaign on his "record of success_actually being a member of Congress, helping constituents break through the bureaucracy and showing we've already been successful," in the primary and beyond. He describes himself as the only freshman to have a bill passed into law — the dedication of the Interstate Route 70 bridge in former St. Louis Cardinal Stan Musial's honor.