By CARL GREEN
The forecast for the 2018 election cleared up just a little when the Illinois AFL-CIO made endorsements in Congressional races with the potential to help win the U.S. House back to Democrats.
Brendan Kelly of Belleville, the St. Clair County state’s attorney who has emerged as the favorite for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional, was endorsed over some potential primary opponents.
Kelly is seeking to oust the two-term incumbent, Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) and has run an active campaign, leaving opponents behind in fund-raising and endorsements.
Kelly earned his law degree at St. Louis University, worked as an assistant state’s attorney, studied government and international relations and became a commissioned officer in the Navy. He has served as state’s attorney since 2010.
Carl Spoerer of Mahomet in central Illinois was endorsed to oppose longtime incumbent John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in the 15th District, which ranges over the eastern half of southern Illinois but also reaches over into the Metro East.
Spoerer grew up in a farming community in Pennsylvania, earned a finance degree at University of Illinois and operates Rural County Marketing Corp., a telecommunications business. He is also the university’s volunteer rugby coach.
Kelly has been preaching a gospel of restoring Americans’ faith in government by reversing some of the trends we’ve seen in recent years, such as consolidation of wealth and power among the 1%.
He has noted that while his district supported Bost and President Trump in the last election, it also strongly supported Democrat Tammy Duckworth in her bid for the U.S. Senate.
“This is not a left versus right situation, and this is not a left versus right district,” he told a group of union teachers recently as Congress was voting on its tax plan.
“This is about the top versus the bottom. This is an up versus down. The elite few at the top, where power keeps being consolidated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, that is the problem,” he said.
Kelly says labor unions are key a factor in battling corporate domination.
“I strongly believe in Organized Labor,” he said at another recent appearance. “Organized Labor is one of the last few things we have that can counter the influence of the huge amount of corporate money that is distorting and mutating and doing absolutely terrible things to our democratic system. It’s preventing us from solving a lot of problems and helping a lot of people.”
FIGHTING TO PROTECT UNIONS
On his campaign website, Spoerer calls himself “an independent voice who will fight to protect unions (the backbone of the working class), Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and critical farming programs.”
His grandfather, Merle Henry Beck, was a union pipefitter.
“He was a man of strong morals and lots of patience,” he said. “He taught me the importance of a firm handshake and to always do exactly what you said you’d do.”
Spoerer says he wants to bring good-paying jobs to the district, create a healthcare system that includes coverage for everyone, improve public education, promote the use of renewable energy and ensure veterans get the services and care they need.
Spoerer notes Shimkus has been in Congress since 1996 and has a record of voting 100 percent for corporations, 92 percent to tax the working class, and only five percent for labor rights and wages.
“Midwestern values are strong in the 15th District,” Spoerer said. “We are hardworking, honest and good stewards of the land. We’re the backbone of the country and the stabilizing voice that brings us back to center when we’ve strayed off course. I’m running to represent those values in Washington.”
Spoerer is scheduled to meet with union members and other voters from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 at the IBEW Local 309 hall in Collinsville.
Other incumbents or challengers endorsed by the Illinois AFL-CIO for Democratic congressional nominations include:
• 1st District – Bobby Rush
• 2nd District – Robin Kelly
• 3rd District – Dan Lipinski
• 4th District – Jesus “Chuey” Garcia
• 5th District – Mike Quigley
• 7th District – Danny Davis
• 8th District – Raja Krishnamoorhi
• 9th District – Jan Schakowsky
• 10th District – Brad Schneider
• 11th District – Bill Foster
• 14th District – Matt Brolley
• 17th District – Cheri Bustos
The state AFL-CIO chose to remain neutral in the races for the 6th, 13th and 16th districts based on feedback from local labor groups, district COPE committees and questionnaires filled out by the candidates, which showed more than one of the candidates in those districts was qualified and a strong advocate for working people.