DECATUR — As he watched the 2016 election and its immediate aftermath, Jonathan Ebel said he could not shake the feeling that something was broken with modern politics.
So Ebel, a University of Illinois associate professor in the Department of Religion since 2005 and a former Navy intelligence officer, decided he wanted to do something about it.
“I’m not the kind of guy who likes to sit back and wait for things to get better, and I decided I wanted to do something about it,” Ebel said of his decision to run.
The Urbana resident is one of five Democrats who are seeking to challenge Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, for the 13th Congressional District in next year’s election. Ebel, 47, will be in Decatur on Thursday for a town hall 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Decatur Civic Center.
He enters a crowded Democratic field that includes David Gill, a Bloomington physician who sought the seat five times previously; Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a self-employed fundraiser from Springfield; Erik Jones, an Edwardsville attorney; and Angel Sides, a Springfield resident and self-described teacher and activist.
As the lone military veteran in the field, Ebel said he has worked with people from a variety of backgrounds, an experience he said can be vital in Washington. That experience, and teaching religion, he said, gives him a unique background that could serve the district well.
“You have to not be paying all that much attention to argue that religion does not matter in our world, in foreign and domestic politics,” he said.
Ebel spent 11 years in the Navy, spending four years on active duty, and was deployed to the United States European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, during the Iraq War.
Among his major policy goals is moving the country closer to a single-payer healthcare system to provide care for everyone. He also said education, from more affordable higher education to increased emphasis on vocational training, and infrastructure improvements are two major items he hopes to focus on if elected to Congress.
“In addressing all of those, I think we can address the need we all have for meaningful work, for good stable jobs,” he said. “In our district where there is so many kinds of work, so many different kinds of employers. I think improvements that we can make to our job and economy will lift all of us up.”
Unlike 2016, next year’s race is expected to be an expensive affair. Davis had just over $1 million on hand at the end of September, according to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission. Two of Ebel’s Democratic opponents, Jones and Londrigan, had $194,613 and $128,810 on hand, respectively. Ebel’s campaign reported $75,507.
“Thankfully it’s not the person with the most money, it’s the person with the most votes,” he said.
The Democrat who wins the primary will hope to make the 13th District competitive again. Once considered one of the most competitive districts in the country, Davis has increased his victory margin every election since first winning in 2012. The Cook Political Report, which rates House and Senate races, rated the 13th as a “likely Republican” district heading into 2018.