On the Republican side is an incumbent who says he deserves another term, a veterinarian who touts his knowledge of the Constitution and a lawyer who says she can expand the GOP base.
On the Democratic side is a former judge who says she has a proven track record, a physics professor and a policy analyst who is critical of capitalism.
They're all hoping for a seat in the U.S. House, representing the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from the Edwardsville area to Champaign and Springfield.
It's a district that's a Democrat/Republican toss-up, where President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney both received 49 percent of the vote in 2012.
The incumbent, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, won the seat in 2012 by defeating Democrat David Gill, of Bloomington, by less than 1 percent of the vote total -- about 1,000 votes.
Accordingly, the national political parties and outside groups are sure to pour millions of dollars into the race after it's narrowed down to the two candidates in the general election in November.
On the Republican side, Davis is challenged by Urbana attorney Erika Harold and Moro veterinarian Michael Firsching.
Davis worked on the staff of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, for 16 years before the GOP chose him in 2012 to be the party's candidate to run for the seat formerly occupied by Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.
Davis said he's done a good job representing the district in his first term.
"I campaigned in 2012 on going to Washington and actually governing, and I think I've been able to work with both Republicans and Democrats to make that happen," Davis said. "I was one of the authors who put together the final Farm Bill that saved taxpayers $23 billion in mandatory spending. We helped prioritize our spending so that the military wasn't adversely affected, and places like Scott Air Force Base are able to function as they should."
David said he worked to prevent cuts to military pensions and won approval of the Hire More Heroes Act, which gives small businesses some relief from requirements in the Affordable Care Act if they hire veterans.
"What I've been able to show in my short time in Washington is that I can work with both sides to craft birpartisan solutions that are going to continue to save taxpayers billions," Davis said.
Harold sought the party's nomination to be the GOP candidate in 2012 for the congressional seat, but the party's county chairmen instead chose Davis. The party leaders had to choose a candidate because Johnson, who had won the primary, decided not to run in the general election.
A former Miss America, Harold attended Harvard Law School and was a speaker at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference.
Harold described herself as a political outsider who "will defend the people's interests in Congress and will not be beholden to the political establishment's interests."
Harold, who has African-American heritage, said her "background and life experiences have given me the ability to share conservative principles with voters who may not typically vote for Republicans -- an essential quality in a swing district."
Harold said she would have voted against the most recent budget "because it failed to meaningfully address the nation's $17.3 trillion national debt, unacceptably targeted the benefits earned by veterans, and increased spending and fees in the short-term in exchange for nominal spending cuts in the long-term -- cuts that might never materialize. While the budget represents an improvement over continuing resolutions, the budget locks in place spending levels that both parties acknowledge are fiscally unsustainable."
Firsching describes himself as a non-establishment Republican who is against big government.
"I am well aware of the growing anti-incumbency mindset. They will be drawn to my primary election to vote for someone other than the incumbent. I am the clear contrast from the incumbent," Firsching said. "It is the independents who are most cognitive of all the problems we are having in the country."
Firsching said the United States should close most of its overseas military bases, says federal crop insurance is "corporate welfare," and says the Federal Reserve should be abolished.
Firsching considers himself well-educated on the Constitution, and believes it calls for a smaller government.
Seeking the Democratic Party's nomination are former Judge Ann Callis, of Edwardsville, physics professor George Gollin, of Champaign ,and policy analyst David Green, of Champaign.
Callis, a judge for 18 years, said she has proven herself as a leader who would be effective in Congress.
"I created our state's first Veterans' Court to help troubled veterans and started a mandatory foreclosure mediation program to help keep families in their homes. In Congress, I put the needs of seniors, veterans, and families ahead of the tired political fights in Washington," she said.
On spending, Callis said Congress needs to balance the budget "in a smart, targeted way to produce a strong economy. I believe any deficit-reduction deals need to cut wisely, while protecting priorities like Social Security, Medicare, and education money. I also think any deal should get rid of subsidies for corporations shipping jobs overseas and eliminate tax loopholes that only benefit the wealthy."
Callis said she'll work to prevent cuts to Social Security.
"Growing up, I saw first-hand the importance of Social Security, as my grandparents depended on the program. I will stand up for the thousands of families in our district that rely on Social Security and fight against efforts to privatize the program or cut hard-earned benefits," she said.
Callis has the support of party heavyweights, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, along with several labor organizations.
Gollin is a physics professor at the University of Illinois.
"I am the only Democratic candidate who can win the general election. I have lived in the district for 25 years, and have been a scientist and professor at the University of Illinois since 1989. I've worked on public policy for years, and have helped draft -- and pass -- federal legislation. I will bring to the job the problem solving skills and deep knowledge of education and technology developed over my entire working life."
Gollin believes the minimum wage should be increased to $15 per hour.
"A strong, growing U.S. economy requires a strong middle class, working in good, secure jobs with salaries that are sufficient to allow spending on necessities, durable goods, and some leisure activities. Returning the country to full employment will increase tax revenues," Gollin said.
Gollin said federal spending cuts, "in particular to programs that do not produce broad economic or other benefits for the United States, are an important part of any sensible economic recovery plan." But he also said there needs to be a "surge" in federal spending on infrastructure, as a way to create jobs and improve the economy.
Green is a policy analyst at the Center for Prevention Research and Development, a division of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Green considers himself the outsider in the Democratic primary.
"I am the only one willing to challenge the Democratic Party power-brokers in Washington, who have selected a candidate for Democrats of this district," Green said. "I am the only one who opposes foreign military intervention and wants to eliminate foreign military bases. I am the only one proposing that the federal government provide a living wage job for everyone who needs one. I am the only one who is opposing the racist war on drugs."
Green said the United States needs "a radically restructured federal budget that provides Medicare for all, returns much more funding to the states, decreases military spending, and taxes the rich, corporations, and Wall Street at much more progressive levels. We need to eliminate the cap on the Social Security payroll tax, lower the rate, and increase benefits. The federal budget can be balanced without resort to borrowing from surplus payroll tax."
Green also believes the minimum wage should be increased to $15 per hour, and believes military spending should be cut by 75 percent.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2511.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at email@example.com or 618-239-2511.