Illinois 12th District candidates trade blows in campaigns first and only televised debate

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U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-12th District) (left) and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly (D), who is challenging Bost for his seat.

Kelly says Bost won’t listen, doesn’t care

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Carbondale, IL – The race between Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and his Democratic challenger, Brendan Kelly, remains one of the nation’s most high-profile contests as the days count down to the Nov. 6 election,

It’s one of the rare races where a Labor-supporting Democrat has a good chance to unseat a Republican known for his opposition to the issues of working families.

The candidates met in the campaign’s only face-to-face debate Oct. 23 in Carbondale, and high profile politicians including President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – a hero of the Civil Rights moment – and House Speaker Paul Ryan scheduled appearances.

Bost claims to support workers, but his votes in office have consistently turned against them, particularly on survival issues such as health care and Social Security.

“Mike Bost and Paul Ryan are lifelong politicians who tried to take away healthcare from 38,000 people in southern Illinois and passed a corrupt tax give-away to billionaires that exploded our deficit,” said Sam Barrett, Kelly’s campaign manager. “Now they want to pay for it with deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I guess it’s no wonder they don’t want to show their faces in southern Illinois.”

NO-SHOW BOST

Bost has mostly avoided public appearances and forums, including the first scheduled debate earlier last month, where Kelly, the St. Clair County state’s attorney for eight years, appeared along with Green Party candidate Randy Auxier.

Kelly said Bost’s debate performance was much like his time in office – a lot of talk about high-ranking officials but no connection to everyday working people.

“You’ve mentioned a lot of names. You’ve mentioned a lot of officials,” Kelly said. “You’ve talked about Durbin and Pelosi and Madigan and Kevin McCarthy, and a bunch of political action committees. I’ve got the endorsement of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. We can spend hours going over endorsements that we have on either side.

“But one thing you didn’t mention was a single name of any person here in southern Illinois – any actual person. So I know you don’t listen because you don’t mention them. You don’t ever talk about them.

“I know that because I asked for your help and you didn’t listen to me,” Kelly said, referring to his effort to engage Bost, as his Congressman, in a campaign to improve living conditions in East St. Louis. Bost never responded.

“That’s why I’m here tonight,” Kelly said. “Because we need a member of Congress who’s actually going to listen to people here in southern Illinois, and I’m committed to doing everything I possibly can to restore the faith in our democracy that we so desperately need ­– to save what we love about southern Illinois.”

CAMPAIGN FINANCES
AND PELOSI

Bost trotted out this year’s Republican campaign standard, claiming Kelly would be beholden to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and that southern Illinois would suffer if he failed to support her.

“You are going to end up voting for Nancy Pelosi unless she gives you a pass, and if you do not, Southern Illinois (will be in trouble),” Bost said.

“Don’t say you’re not beholding to her when she is actually the control behind each group (that gives you money),” Bost said, adding, ironically, that he openly admits to getting money from his party’s heavy weights.

Kelly has consistently maintained that he would not vote for Pelosi for Speaker and said he has taken no money from her or organizations that she directs.

Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Kelly has consistently out-raised Bost in campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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