This central Illinois district encompasses Champaign, De Witt and Macon counties and includes Decatur as well as the collegiate sister citiy Champaign-Urbana at the University of Illinois. A battleground zone, its unique voter politics resulted in a super-slim victory in 2012 for Republican Rodney Davis, who won election over Democrat David Gill by a mere 294,385 votes. As such, Davis was singled out as among the most vulnerable lawmakers in 2014. He is running against Democrat Ann Callis in an increasingly bitter fight filled with below-the-belt attacks from both sides.
The slick, businesslike Davis, who could be the poster child for what a congressman is supposed to look like, has had a long career in Illinois politics. The 44-year-old first-term House member has done stints working for the Secretary of State and as an aide for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus as well as a year as exec director of the state's GOP. His views skew conservative—he opposes taxing the wealthy and gay marriage and supports gun ownership and school vouchers—as well as libertarian, with an emphasis on limited government.
Callis served as chief judge at Illinois' Third Judicial Circuit Court from 2006 until resigning last year to challenge Davis' congressional seat. Taking a populist tact, she has made jobs and the economy a central issue in her campaign, drawing upon voter antipathy toward Congress to slam the chamber as "dysfunctional" and vowing to boost the middle class amid rising income inequality. Meanwhile, she has tried to minimize her own privileged background as the daughter of uber-rich attorney Lance Callis.
According to the Rothenberg Report, the 13th leans Republican, an outcome also predicted by Politico and The Cook Report. But Real Clear Politics, another election predictor, places the Davis-Callis showdown squarely in the toss-up category. Though Davis benefits from an incumbency advantage, neither side scores points for congeniality. Callis' campaign has dropped negative ads taking swipes at Davis for allegedly spending too much time wining and dining with DC "insiders" and spending $40,000 on steakhouse schmoozefests. Retaliating, Davis' campaign invoked Callis' "growing residency scandal" and called her "smarmy," "desperate" and "untruthful." Davis has also knocked Callis for allegedly neglecting to pay property taxes for her various homes.
If the aforementioned "residency scandal" escalates—Davis reportedly signed papers labeling her a Missouri resident while she was a judge in Illinois—that could tarnish her hopes for unseating Davis. But any sort of mini-scandal involving Callis might not matter much in the end, given pollsters' collective predictions favoring a second term for Davis. At this point, Davis will have to say shoot himself in the foot by saying something completely off-base and/or pulling a Romney.