- - Sunday, May 20, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Republican leaders have chosen a November ballot replacement for longtime Republican Rep. Timothy V. Johnson after he abruptly announced his retirement last month.

GOP officials from 14 counties settled on Rodney Davis on Saturday. He’s an aide to Republican Rep. John Shimkus and was among four candidates being considered. The others included Mr. Johnson’s former chief of staff, Jerry Clarke, and attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold.

Mr. Davis faces Democrat David Gill, a physician.

According to a statement, Republican officials say Mr. Davis was their unanimous choice for the newly created 13th District. It stretches across parts of central and southwestern Illinois.

Mr. Johnson won the GOP nomination in Illinois’ March primary. In April, he dropped his re-election campaign, citing family reasons.

Mr. Johnson first took office in 2001.


Party leaders refuse to budge on debt stance

Republicans and Democrats aren’t budging when it comes to their already hardened positions on spending cuts versus tax increases to deal with the nation’s debt.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky both said Sunday that when Congress is asked to raise the nation’s borrowing cap after the election, they’ll insist on spending cuts to offset the increase. Mr. McConnell said it was the “perfect time” to have a broader debt discussion.

Meanwhile, top Democratic leaders said the GOP stance was irresponsible. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Mr. Boehner “wants to go over the edge.”

A partisan showdown over the debt ceiling issue last year caused a downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit rating.

Mr. Boehner and Mrs. Pelosi spoke on ABC’s “This Week.” Mr. McConnell appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


Bush to return to Washington for official portrait event

Former President George W. Bush plans to return to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait later this month, marking a rare visit by the two-term president who has largely shunned the spotlight since leaving office.

The White House and Mr. Bush’s office said Mr. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will return to the White House on May 31 for the release of their portraits.

Mr. Bush has avoided politics since he left office in January 2009. The portrait ceremony will be his first visit to the White House in more than two years.

Mr. Bush appeared with President Obama and former President Bill Clinton at the Rose Garden following the devastating Haiti earthquake in January 2010. The Republican accompanied Mr. Obama last year to New York’s ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said the couple was “looking forward to seeing a lot of their friends from the administration and they are grateful to the president and first lady for their hospitality.”

Mr. Obama criticized Mr. Bush’s economic and foreign policy record during his 2008 campaign and has said that Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney would help restore the policies that preceded the economic collapse at the end of Mr. Bush’s presidency.

But in their appearances together, they have maintained a presidential protocol. In New York last year, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush ran their hands over bronze panels bearing the names of victims


NAACP backs same-sex marriage as civil right

MIAMI — The NAACP passed a resolution Saturday endorsing same-sex marriage as a civil right and opposing any efforts “to codify discrimination or hatred into the law.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board voted at a leadership retreat in Miami to back a resolution supporting marriage equality, calling the position consistent with the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution.

“The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people,” Board Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement. “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but 31 states have passed amendments to ban it.

The NAACP vote came about two weeks after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, setting off a flurry of political activity in a number of states. Mr. Obama’s announcement followed Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s declaration in a television interview that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay couples marrying.

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, a strong backer of gay rights.

Gay marriage has divided the black community, with many religious leaders opposing it. In California, exit polls showed about 70 percent of blacks opposed same-sex marriage in 2008. In Maryland, black religious leaders helped derail a gay marriage bill last year. But state lawmakers passed a gay marriage bill this year.


Michelle Obama hosts G-8 spouses for tour

While President Obama hosted world leaders Saturday for high-level economic talks at Camp David, Michelle Obama engaged in some soft diplomacy with their spouses.

The first lady hosted a tour of the White House on Saturday for the spouses of the Group of Eight leaders. White House curator Bill Allman led the tour, which included stops in the East Room, where the visitors viewed portraits of George and Martha Washington, and the State Dining Room.

Mrs. Obama, wearing a purple sundress, explained how the president walks through the long hallway into the East Room for news conferences and other events.

Following the tour, Mrs. Obama and the G-8 spouses gathered in the White House Blue Room for a lunch prepared by renowned chef Jose Andres.

On the menu: gazpacho; Maryland rockfish with asparagus, grapefruit, Virginia berries, greens from the White House garden and caramelized olive oil; and tangerine sorbet with Virginia strawberries.

Mrs. Obama was joined by several new faces on the international political stage, including Elsa Antonioli Monti, whose husband, Mario, took over as Italy’s prime minister late last year, and Valerie Trierweiler, the partner of newly sworn-in French President Francois Hollande. Italy and France are among the countries where economic turmoil has led to political shake-ups.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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