NEWTON — NEWTON — Like he does in all congressional election years, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus is wearing two hats this summer.
There's Congressman Shimkus, who balances time between his duties in Washington with time spent in his sprawling 15th congressional district.
But there's also candidate Shimkus, who is seeking a 10th term in Congress this fall. The Collinsville resident said his roles as congressman and candidate morph into one.
"They are one and the same," he said.
Shimkus noted that he plans to be in Dieterich for the Fourth of July parade Friday.
"I will be there as a congressman and candidate," he said. "I don't want to be that congressman who nobody ever sees."
Shimkus faces Democrat Eric Thorsland in the November general election. Thorsland has been active in Champaign County zoning issues in recent years.
Shimkus was in Newton Wednesday to visit with constituents — one of a number of meetings the congressman will hold in his 33-county district. He said there's a big difference between holding meetings in the district and having the people come to him at one of his district offices.
"If I was lazy, I could tell people to come to me," he said. "But it's important for me to be accessible — and it's important to the people.
"Meeting with people this way gives me the unvarnished viewpoint," he said. "It's a big difference from getting a letter."
Rural Teutopolis farmer Phil Hartke, who was in Newton Wednesday to share his concerns about wind turbines, realizes the importance of Shimkus being in the district.
"He's got to do it to keep in touch with the people," Hartke said. "He has to be out here."