Erika Harold, Former Miss America, Finalist In Bid For GOP U.S. House Nomination

A former Miss America's U.S. House bid gained traction this week as the Ivy League-educated former beauty queen was named as one of four finalists for the Republican nomination to succeed veteran U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson.

Erika Harold, 32, said last month that she was "exploring the possibility" of joining the eastern Illinois 13th District race, and that possibility feels very real now: The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the 2003 Miss America, currently working as a Chicago lawyer, will join the three other candidates for the Republican nomination Wednesday evening at the Edwardsville Gun Club.

The other finalists are Jerry Clarke, Johnson's former chief of staff; Rodney Davis, projects director for Rep John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Kathy Wassink, owner of TheraKids, a company geared toward providing therapy services for students with special needs, the paper reports.

A nominating committee will gather May 19 to choose the candidate who will face Democratic hopeful David Gill in the general election this fall, the State Journal-Register reports.

Harold commented to Don Wade and Roma on WLS Wednesday that, although she said in her pageant days that she hoped to one day be the U.S. president, today she is focused on a congressional bid.

Harold, a Harvard Law School graduate, grew up in Urbana, Ill., which is in Johnson's district. Harold won the Miss America crown on a platform of preventing youth violence and bullying, and previously told the Journal-Register she is "pro-life and pro-Second Amendment." She previously spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention in 2004.

Johnson, 65, was first elected to Congress in 2000 after serving in the state General Assembly since 1976. He dropped his re-election bid last month.

Check out some photos of Harold's Miss America days here: