SPRINGFIELD — After serving in Congress for 16 years, Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville is a familiar name throughout much of downstate Illinois.

His opponent in the race for the 15th Congressional District seat, however, is a newcomer to the political scene.

It also appears Angela Michael is destined to remain largely unknown heading into the Nov. 6 election.

Michael, an anti-abortion activist from Highland, is running as a Democrat in the district that encompasses 33 counties stretching from Ford County in the north to Massac County in the south.

But, Michael has not been actively campaigning. Multiple attempts to contact her went unanswered and Democratic officials in the district say they haven’t seen or heard from her since she filed to get on the ballot after no one

For many in the district, the only evidence she’s on the ballot is Michael’s website, which says she has 13 children and also includes graphic pictures of aborted fetuses.

Coles County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Wieck does not consider Michael to be a viable candidate.

"We don’t view her as a Democrat," Wieck said, echoing the comments of other county chairmen. "It’s not even worth time talking about it."

Madison County voting records show Michael took a Republican ballot in the 2010 primary election.

Her absence from the campaign trail has given Shimkus a chance to spend time introducing himself to voters in the newly drawn district which includes all or parts of Coles, Douglas, Effingham, Fayette, Moultrie, Shelby, Bond, Clay, Cumberland, Edgar and Jasper counties as well as the communities of Mattoon, Charleston, Vienna, Harrisburg, Paxton and Nashville.

The 54-year-old former Madison County treasurer carries a brochure showing a map of the expansive 15th to help him explain why he may not be able to make routine visits to every corner of the district if he wins another two-year term.

"It’s just not going to be an easy thing to do," Shimkus said as he headed toward Danville on a recent weekday.

Shimkus also is spending time helping other Republicans in tighter races. He’s also endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president and has been focusing mainly on the economy during his campaign stops.

He supports balancing the budget by cutting discretionary spending and other reforms, saying his constituents are most worried about jobs.

"There is no excitement out there that things will get better in the future," Shimkus said. "We’re saying, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be that way.’"

He said tough choices over whether to cut or keep various federal programs are on the horizon.

"I’m unafraid. It’s time," Shimkus said. "Its 20 years too late, but at least we’re talking about it."

As he headed into the final weeks of the campaign, Shimkus had nearly $1.1 million in his campaign warchest. Michael raised just $25 between July and October and reported a total of $492 in her account.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|782-4043

Springfield Bureau Chief for the Herald & Review

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