Erickson: 13th congressional race really heating up

2012-09-16T07:00:00Z 2012-10-24T22:37:24Z Erickson: 13th congressional race really heating upKurt Erickson, Lee Statehouse Bureau chief | kurt.erickson@lee.net pantagraph.com

The race between Democrat David Gill, Republican Rodney Davis and independent John Hartman in Illinois’ 13th congressional district is among a handful of red hot contests under way in downstate Illinois.

The candidates are up on the airwaves with ads and the national groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee are spreading big bucks around trying to secure or maintain majorities in the U.S. House. Press conferences are being held at gas stations, in cornfields and, of course, in front of American flags.

The candidates in the 13th, which encompasses all or parts of Champaign, Bloomington, Normal and Decatur —agreed last week to appear together in at least one debate, which is scheduled for Nov. 1 in Urbana.

It’s not clear why it’s been so difficult for the candidates to get together on debate times and dates. Candidates in other races, such as the 12th district in southern Illinois, have already stood together on stage to talk about their positions.

In fact, Republican Jason Plummer and Democrat Bill Enyart are poised to have another debate Sept. 20 in Marion in their spirited race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello of Belleville.

Gill spokesman Tom Alte said the 13th district candidates are open to additional debates.

“We’re just kind of seeing what works with the schedules of all of the candidates before we announce anything,” Alte said.

For Gill, it’s his fourth time around the congressional campaign block. But, because it’s a newly drawn district and because the emergency room doctor from Bloomington is not running against retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana, national Democrats are pumping resources into the race in hopes of picking up a seat in Congress.

Yet all is not well in the Gill camp.

Gill’s campaign manager quit last week, saying he needed to spend more time on his own campaign for Champaign County Board.

And, the DCCC opened the door for an examination of Gill’s job history when they began airing ads claiming Davis worked for former Gov. George Ryan. Although the Taylorville Republican did work for imprisoned ex-governor, it was not during the time Ryan was chief executive.

Gill’s work history includes being fired from a job as a doctor at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington because of his views on physician-assisted suicide, which is illegal.

Here’s what Gill said about physician-assisted suicide back in 1997.

“I don’t think people should have to put up with the amount of suffering the state says they have to. A lot of physicians feel disgruntled, ashamed and disgusted in their inability to assist patients,” Gill said in an article in The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.

He added that physician-assisted suicides already occur.

For example, Gill said some doctors will keep increasing a patient’s dosage of pain-relieving morphine, fully aware that respirations will eventually stop.

“It goes on everyday,” he said at the time.

It wasn’t until two years later that he was fired by OSF after writing a letter to the editor in support of euthanasia. A hospital spokeswoman said physician-assisted suicide goes against the teachings of the Catholic church.

“In view of the fact that Dr. David Gill embraces and advocates medical treatment methods that are unlawful in this state and that are not acceptable by community medical standards, Dr. Gill cannot be employed by OSF HealthCare System,” a company representative said at the time.

Alte said physician-assisted suicide is not a high-profile issue on the campaign trail.

“People are more interested in jobs, the economy and health care,” Alte said. “It is not something that has come up at all.”

As far as Gill’s campaign manager situation goes, it appears the campaign will move forward without one.

“We have a good staff in place right now so we’re continuing where we’re at right now,” Alte said.

Jack Quigley, a Chicago-based political strategist, is playing a key role in the campaign.

Quigley knows a little bit about politics in Gill’s home base of Bloomington. In 2002, Quigley’s company Compass Media was heavily involved in former resident Mike Kelleher’s unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.

Alte couldn’t say last week if a full-time campaign manager will be brought on board for the final 52 days of the race.

“I’m not really certain about that,” Alte said.

Copyright 2015 pantagraph.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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