If you’ve ever seen the film High Fidelity (and you all should), you certainly know about the innate human fascination with lists. We love to rank things. It’s simply in our DNA. Just ask Buzzfeed.
In order to contribute to the inevitable Buzzfeed-ification of America, I’d like to make a list but with a special C-U political tilt. As many of you know, the past few weeks have seen our U.S. Representative, Rodney Davis, come under nearly constant fire from constituents for refusing to hold a town hall meeting, among other things. I’ve lived in Rep. Davis’ (and formerly Rep. Johnson’s) district for my entire life, and honestly, this backlash to an elected official is more wide-ranging than any I have ever seen before. There's even a cardboard cutout of him parading around the 13th.
Rep. Davis’ short, two-year term means that he is up for re-election in November 2018 (November 6th, to be exact). This means that he’s going to have to campaign starting almost immediately. With the way he’s treated his constituents in Illinois’ 13th district lately, it seems like 2018 could be a rougher-than-normal election cycle for Rod. Here are my top five replacements for Rodney Davis’ congressional seat in 2018. By no means is this exhaustive, and honestly, it’s probably way-too-early, but it is fun. So there’s that.
Also, please note that this list does not include Dr. David Gill for a reason. Dr. Gill, if you’re reading this, it’s really nothing personal but please for the love of everything holy — do NOT run for this seat. You’ve had your chance(s), and you actually came close one time, but I think it’s time to throw in the towel on your candidacy. We need a fresh face.
1. Carol Ammons
Last week, Carol Ammons, who has been representing Champaign-Urbana in the Illinois House of Representatives, told the News-Gazette that she is open to a potential U.S. congressional run, which was immediately lauded by progressives throughout C-U.
Ammons, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders, has made a name for herself by standing up to Governor Bruce Rauner, and his egregious state budget cuts. Over the past few years in Springfield, Ammons has truly demonstrated her ability to stand up for those in Champaign-Urbana, and it would be interesting to see how she could apply that on a national scale.
The problem here, however, is that the 13th District extends beyond just C-U. It stretches all the way down to Collinsville, and includes Decatur and Springfield. If Ammons’ name recognition isn’t enough in those places (and it probably isn’t), a sizable grassroots effort would have to be put into motion, and high turnout among progressives would be a complete necessity if she is to fend off an incumbent like Rep. Davis.
With that being said, Illinois’ 13th is fairly evenly split ideologically, and if the Democratic base can mobilize behind Ammons, I see no reason why she couldn’t give Rodney a very serious run for his money in 2018.
2. Mike Frerichs
Our current State Treasurer (and former State Senator) is perhaps one of Central Illinois' brightest progressive political stars, and though he (used to?) hail from Gifford, which is not in Rodney Davis' 13th District, Frerichs is one of the strongest politicians that local Democrats have seen in quite some time. His run for Treasurer in 2014 was successful, proving that Frerichs has more mainstream appeal than most, with an insane campaign work-ethic at that.
If Frerichs chooses to run for the 13th seat, he would almost certainly have the kind of crossover appeal that could shift some Davis voters left. The problem, however, is that so far, Frerichs has not expressed any interest in joining the 2018 race, perhaps indicating that he is not quite ready to leave his post as Treasurer, which is understandable. Gifford is also located in IL-15, not IL-13, so Frerichs would have to file as a candidate living in Champaign, which is probably possible but sounds like a lot of hassle. At some point, however, whether it be unseating Rodney Davis or John Shimkus, Frerichs will be primed for national office. Until then, we wait.
3. Andy Manar
A lot of these potential candidates have ties to C-U, but State Senator Andy Manar from Bunker Hill does not, at least explicitly, and that could be a good thing. C-U, of course, is one of the strongest progressive bases in the 13th District, but also included are Decatur and Springfield, which have sizeable liberal populations. Getting the vote out in these cities (as well as Bloomington-Normal) will be absolutely crucial to Democrats winning in 2018, and Manar presents a way to make that possible.
Manar would have name recognition going for him in the southern part of the district, while being a Democrat, and still able to win Champaign, just by not as high of a margin as the two candidates listed above. The Democrats will need to take a good, long look at where they can rally votes and support, but Manar just might be the key to Decatur and Springfield Democrats, and that in and of itself may be enough to capture Rodney Davis' seat.
4. Lovie Smith
Any football coach who voluntarily chooses to come to Champaign-Urbana to coach our dumpster fire of a football team must really love giving C-U a chance, and I think many voters in Illinois’ 13th District can respect that. The fact that Lovie was able to wrangle in the #43 recruiting class in the country proves that he can, quite literally, make something out of nothing.
While football and politics aren’t quite parallels, Lovie must be doing something right — something that Rep. Davis has had a continually hard time doing.
No, Lovie probably doesn’t have the political experience we’re looking for moving forward — but that didn’t stop Donald Trump, right? This could be the celebrity candidacy that C-U needs right now.
5. Literally anyone with a heart and emotions
This last one sounds like a joke — and it kind of is - but honestly any human being with a functioning brain/body would be better than Rep. Rodney Davis, and as he becomes more entrenched in the Trump Administration, the hole in IL-13 for another candidate to sneak in will become ever-so-wider.
The crazy part about that is that it’s not even that harsh of a dig, because literally any person who has spent any time in Champaign-Urbana this year has probably spent more time here than our own Representative, thus making them just as qualified as Rodney to represent our concerns in Washington. It could be you. It could be me. It could be my mom. Hell, you could even make a strong case for my dog Jeff. He has a human name, he rarely, if ever, leaves the 13th District, and he loves everyone indiscriminately. Sounds like a pretty damn good politician to me.