By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
BLOOMINGTON, IL — Illinois’ 13th Congressional District was drawn to send a Democrat to Congress, but the map failed.
Now, three new Democrats are trying to wrestle the central Illinois district from the Republicans, but Obamacare is not helping.
The 13th District is a squat area in the middle of the state that looks like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
“It’s a little bit long,” Chris Mooney, director of the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs told Illinois Watchdog. “But if you look closely, it goes into Bloomington, it goes into Champaign, it goes into Springfield, it goes into the Metro East area looking for Democrats.”
Mooney said Democrat state lawmakers in Springfield drew the district boundaries specifically to lump Democratic voters in a half dozen cities into a single voting bloc.
But many of those Democratic voters come from students and faculty at the nine colleges and universities, among them the University of Illinois, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, that fall inside the 13th District.
And that may be a problem for Democrats.
“I spent a lot of time on college campuses and one of the things that students expressed was extreme frustration that they feel they are the ones who are going to be subsidizing (Obamacare),” GOP candidate Erika Harold said.
And those same voters are not happy about their job prospects or student loan debt, Harold said.
Harold is running as the conservative candidate in a three-way GOP primary. She said Obamacare is just part of the frustration she is seeing.
“I think people are really looking to see (if) you can point to things in your life where you have stood up to the establishment and stood up for the people,” Harold said.
Harold’s main opponent is incumbent U.S. Rep Rodney Davis who won a tight race two years ago.
Davis’ spokesman Andrew Flach said the 13th District is one of the few “true 50-50” districts in the country, but said the issues, not the map, will decide the election.
“In every district in the state you’ll have areas that are solid conservative areas and others that are solid liberal areas,” Flach said. “It’s really up to the individual candidates and if they are able to transcend party labels and work to represent as many people as possible.”
Flach said Davis, too, is hearing a lot of frustration about Obamacare and the inaction in Congress.
Mooney, with the U of I, said candidates must address voter anger and voter turnout to be successful in 2014.
“I think the question is does 2014 replicate 2010 in terms of the tea party successes,” Mooney asked.
Democrat Ann Callis, the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate in the contest, did not respond to emails sent to her campaign.
Callis could face George Gollin and David Green, both from Champaign, in a March primary.
Davis, the incumbent, will face Harold and possibly newcomer Michael Frisching in the GOP primary.
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.