Democrat who lost a bid for Congress in 2018 wants another chance

The Democrat who lost to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, in the 2018 general election wants another shot at the seat.

Kevin Gaither, of Charleston, has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to raise money for the 2020 election.

Gaither garnered just 29 percent of the vote in the general election in the heavily Republican 15th Congressional District.

“It was a hard choice, that’s for sure,” Gaither said on his decision to run again. “It’s a lot of work, because it’s a lot of ground to cover. There’s so much that hasn’t been done still in this district and I’m not one to give up on a fight and I’m not one to give up on people.”

According to FEC records, Gaither, who raised about $53,000 during the 2018 campaign cycle, did not receive any financial help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or any other national left-leaning organization that campaigned to help put Democrats in control of congress.

In comparison, in the Illinois 12th and 13th districts, which were targeted by the DCCC to flip, saw Democratic nominees each raise several million of dollars, FEC records show.

“We put together a hard fought campaign about issues that mattered to people,” Gaither said. “We did a lot with a little. We laid the groundwork for this campaign. People know us wherever we go.”

Shimkus last month, a few days before potential candidates were able to start circulating petitions to make the ballot, announced he would not seek re-election in 2020.

Gaither said Shimkus’ decision not to run again did not play a role in his decision to seek the office again.

Collinsville Democrat John W. Hursey, Jr. also has said he is seeking the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, state Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, is exploring a run and Republican Alex Walker, of Mattoon, has thrown his name into the campaign.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, told the Illinois Review he is “taking a hard look” at jumping into the race.

If multiple candidates from both major parties file petitions between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, then there could be competitive primary elections in March for the seat.

The general election is Nov. 3, 2020.

Anyone who wants to run in the GOP primary would need to gather at least 987 valid voter signatures within the district.

Democratic candidates need to collect at least 526 valid voter signatures, according to the state Board of Elections.

The district includes Collinsville but mostly covers southeastern Illinois to the Kentucky and Indiana borders.


Why did we do this story?

The November 2020 election may be more than a year away, but candidates are starting to organize and begin the process to appear on the ballot. On Sept. 3, candidates were allowed to begin collecting signatures on petitions that are required to appear on the March 17 primary ballot. Official filing of petitions is scheduled from Nov. 25 through Dec. 2. The BND will cover the important steps leading up to the election as part of our role in giving you information that will help you participate in civic life and be a watchdog of the candidates and the election process.

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.