Belleville—In a race that drew national attention because Republicans saw a chance to take it away from Democrats, Democrat Bill Enyart rescued a victory from the jaws of defeat in the contest to replace retiring Congressman Jerry Costello in the 12th Congressional District of Southern Illinois.
When the votes were counted, Enyart won with a 52 percent majority over his Republican opponent, Jason Plummer.
When he entered the race in late June Enyart was relatively unknown in political circles in Southern Illinois. Early polls showed Plummer with a big lead.
But Enyart came with sterling credentials as the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, an experienced military commander widely known at Scott Air Base and in civic leadership circles in Metro East. He hit the campaign trail running and by the final week polling indicated he was leading Plummer by a few points.
At a press conference the morning after the election, Enyart said, “It was a 130 day race for me. We kind of had to build an airplane at 35,000 feet while flying at 500 miles an hour.”
Enyart expressed his appreciation to the unions who supported him. “I don’t think I could have done it without the support of organized labor.”
The 12th District extends south from Madison County to the tip of Illinois. It is bounded by the Mississippi River on the west and Kentucky on the south. Costello represented the district for 24 years. A Democrat has held it since 1944.
But in recent years, it has voted for Republican presidential candidates and GOP candidates for statewide offices. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee targeted the race this year, and right-wing interest groups sent tons of money to Plummer, who spent well over a million dollars on the campaign.
Enyart had financial help from the White House, the Democratic National Committee and Congressional Campaign Committee, in addition to substantial contributions from unions.
Enyart, an attorney, is hoping to land a position on the House Transportation Committee and or the House Armed Services Committee where he would be in a position to promote and protect the interests of Scott Air Base, one of the St.Louis region’s largest employers.