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Former Miss America in running for Downstate GOP congressional nomination

Miss Illinois ErikHarold is crowned Miss Americ2003. FILE PHOTO. (AP Photo/Mary Godleski File)

Miss Illinois Erika Harold is crowned Miss America 2003. FILE PHOTO. (AP Photo/Mary Godleski, File)

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Updated: June 11, 2012 9:08AM

A conservative former Miss America now working as a Chicago lawyer is one of four finalists to replace Rep. Tim Johnson as the Republican congressional nominee in the Downstate 13th Congressional District.

Erika Harold, 32, made waves when, after being crowned Miss America 2003, she said that in addition to her stated platform against bullying and youth violence, she also wanted to campaign to convince teens to abstain from premarital sex.

The multi-racial U of I grad became Miss Illinois after talking about being a victim of bullying in her youth.

She won the respect of conservative activists when she insisted on talking about abstinence from sex, alcohol and drugs in speeches to youth as Miss America.

At the National Press Club in Washington D.C. shortly after winning her title, she said she would not yield to pressure from unnamed pageant executives to stick to the script.

“I will not be bullied,” she said.

As a Harvard law student, she chaired the youth section of Patrick O’Malley’s conservative run for governor of Illinois in 2004.

Harold has African-American, American Indian, Russian, Greek, German and Welsh roots.

She is an associate at the Chicago law firm of Burke, Warren, Mackay and Serritella, where mayoral grandson and nephew Patrick Daley Thompson is a partner. Harold focuses on litigation and class action defense. Her law firm web page lists her many honors but not her crowning as Miss America 2003.

Harold has said she hopes someday to be president of the United States.

Harold and the other three candidates will address Downstate Republicans at the Edwardsville Gun Club Wednesday night.

Harold’s backers among Illinois Republicans say that if she becomes the nominee, with her star power and national profile, she will likely be offered a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this summer.

The other three finalists are:

■ Jerry Clarke, Johnson’s former chief of staff now serving as chief of staff to Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)

■ Rodney Davis of Taylorville, projects director for Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

■ Kathy Wassink of Shipman, owner of TheraKids, a company that serves students with special needs.

On May 19, the Republican chairmen of the 14 counties covered by the 13th Congressional District will gather to choose one of the four as the Republican nominee to face Democrat David Gill, a Bloomington emergency room physician.

Madison County Republican Chairman Andrew Carruthers, who will host Wednesday night’s event, said Harold and any of the other three would meet the criteria of being “a candidate who we feel is best suited to win in the fall.” Though Harold currently lives in Chicago, “Everyone knows she is a native of Urbana,” Carruthers said.

The four finalists were chosen by the county chairman from a field of eight over the weekend.

Johnson ran for and won the Republican nomination in the newly drawn district that stretches from Urbana and Bloomington down to Collinsville and Edwardsville. Then he announced his retirement after winning.

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