Politics & Government

Democrat to challenge Shimkus but admits he doesn’t have ‘a chance in hell of winning’

A 38-year-old Collinsville Democrat has thrown his name in the ring to challenge U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

John W. Hursey, Jr., the son of a retired Air Force colonel, and who was born at Scott Air Force Base, has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to run in the 15th Congressional District, which runs from Collinsville to the Indiana border in the southern and southeastern part of the state.

Hursey said he has been involved in politics for much of his life, volunteering for different organizations, including the Barack Obama campaign. However this is Hursey’s first time running for office. He is the first person to challenge Shimkus during this election cycle.

Hursey has lived in the metro-east since 2003.

In 2018, Shimkus defeated Democrat Kevin Gaither, receiving nearly 71 percent of the vote.

Shimkus has raised $450,000 during this 2019-2020 election cycle, and had $1.1 million at the end of June, according to FEC records. Shimkus, who is in a safe Republican district, has been able to bank dollars in recent years.

“He hasn’t had much of a challenge in the last couple of years,” said Hursey, who is a high school English teacher.

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John W. Hursey Jr. Provided photo

Hursey recognizes his campaign will be a long shot.

“I don’t (have) a chance in hell of winning this thing,” Hursey said, acknowledging he will be at a time and money disadvantage.

Hursey said his campaign plans to share stories of people around the area and country and their crowdfunding sites to encourage supporters to donate to those pages.

“We’re not raising money, we’re not looking for donations for people to have a nice T-shirt we can send them and a coffee mug,” Hursey said. “That’s not what we’re about.”

“I absolutely want you to donate your money, I don’t want it for myself,” Hursey added.

But he plans on relying on social media to get his message out and to connect with potential voters and other Democratic groups.

He plans to run a strong negative campaign on Shimkus, citing how Shimkus didn’t do enough during the Mark Foley scandal, how Shimkus hasn’t followed his pledge to stick to at term limits and previous stances on climate change.

“I’m certainly not a perfect guy, but at the same time John Shimkus has betrayed this district,” said Hursey, who actually lives in the 13th District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.

Under federal law, a person does not have to live in the district they are running in, only the state.

Shimkus has recently said there should be action on climate change, but the country needs to be pragmatic.

“Congressman Shimkus is honored to carry the conservatives’ values and priorities of central and southern Illinois with him to Washington,” said Jordan Haverly, a spokesman for Shimkus. “He’s proud of his record and his support for President Trump’s agenda, and he welcomes this opportunity to tell voters about both. The congressman will formally announce his intent to seek re-election in the coming weeks, and he welcomes anyone who wants to run for office to participate in the democratic process.”

Hursey does plan to hold town halls, and planning events with local Democratic groups within the district, which stretches to the Indiana border.

“I think most Americans want abortion to be legal, but they want it to happen as rarely as possible and they want their local communities to have control over where those procedures are performed. I support that,” Hursey said. “I think most people want us to do something about climate change while not sacrificing jobs or the economy. We can do those things.”

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.