Labor-backed Kelly picks up endorsement from Obama

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FOR WORKERS: Kelly talks with a television reporter about the challenges facing workers and Organized Labor during a stop at the Steelworkers union hall in Granite City.

Offers grassroots support, solutions for southern Illinois

By CARL GREEN
Illinois Correspondent

Belleville, IL – Southern Illinois Congressional candidate Brendan Kelly has made the coveted list of endorsements by former President Barack Obama, meaning Obama can be expected to campaign on Kelly’s behalf.

Kelly (D-Swansea), the St. Clair County state’s attorney since 2010, is seeking to oust anti-worker Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District in the November general election.

Kelly, from a public-sector union family, is a Navy veteran, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the St. Louis University School of Law. He’s been endorsed by the Illinois AFL-CIO and has a detailed plan to “Save Southern Illinois.”

Bost, a former state representative well known for his vitriolic tirades in the Illinois House, has represented the district since 2014.

Obama issued a list of 81 Democratic endorsements last week in both state and federal races. Kelly was among 22 U.S. House candidates included.

Also included from Illinois were J.B. Pritzker for governor, Julianna Stratton for lieutenant governor and Kwame Raoul for attorney general.

NOT A REGULAR DEMOCRAT

Kelly’s recently released first television commercial, titled “Faith,” signals he is not a regular Democrat by asserting that if elected, he would not support Nancy Pelosi to remain the House Democratic leader.

The ad also raised some eyebrows for the way it was filmed – in a church, as Kelly walks through the sanctuary, introducing himself in measured tones. Kelly, though, is active in his church, so it’s not much of a stretch.

Here’s what Kelly says in the ad:

“Can you feel it in your heart? We are deeply, deeply divided, and folks in southern Illinois are losing faith. I grew up here, and after serving in the Navy, I came home to raise my family here.

“As a prosecutor, I’m fighting corrupt Republicans AND Democrats, taking on the drug companies who started the opioid epidemic, and I believe we need new leaders in both parties. I’m Brendan Kelly, and I approved this message because it’s time to restore our party and save southern Illinois.”

‘SAVING SOUTHERN ILLINOIS’

Kelly’s “Saving Southern Illinois” plan offers 35 pages of challenges facing southern Illinois and potential solutions on topics ranging from health care and infrastructure to working people, families, unions, farmers, the poverty cycle and the opioid epidemic.

Kelly also singles out two major institutions whose futures may be in jeopardy –Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Scott Air Force Base.

Kelly’s plan can be viewed, downloaded or printed from his campaign website at brendan4southernil.com under the “Priorities” heading.

Campaign Manager Sam Barrett said Kelly spent a year holding town hall meetings, knocking on doors and listening to people all over the district,

“Brendan compiled everything he had heard into a plan that addresses the deepest concerns of folks in southern Illinois,” Barrett said. “The plan covers everything from health care to infrastructure to retirement and education.”

Southern Illinoisan newspaper reporter Isaac Smith noted that the plan’s focus is consistently bipartisan.

“He says with each point in the plan that he will work with any person on Capitol Hill to move this agenda forward,” Smith wrote. “This won’t be an easy task, as the cavernous divide between political ideologies seems to move wider and deeper with each week. But still, it’s worth a try, Kelly said, and there are things in his plan he said anyone could get behind.”

RACE UPGRADED TO ‘TOSS UP’

Certain national observers have upgraded the Kelly-Bost race from “leaning Republican” to “toss up,” meaning Kelly has as much chance of winning as Bost.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates all races for the House, Senate and governorships, and frequently reconsiders its positions. Kelly has steadily improved in the Crystal Ball ratings since September, when Sabato shifted the race from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican.” On Nov. 29, Sabato shifted the “likely” designation to “leans Republican,” then changed the rating to “toss-up” in March.

The respected Cook Political Report describes the 12th District as one that leans Republican, but in this case, rates the Bost-Kelly contest as a toss-up.

FINANCE STRENGTH

Kelly reported raising $525,000 in the latest campaign finance report submitted in July, with 32,000 individual donors contributing an average of $16.40, indicating widespread grassroots support and marking the fourth straight quarter that Kelly had outraised Bost.

Kelly said he was “blown away” by the support. “Thirty-two thousand donors just shows that if we all take action, we CAN overcome the powerful few,” he said. “The people of southern Illinois are clearly yearning for a Congress that serves them – not Wall Street banks, not Big Pharma and not the powerful few.”

Bost has a more establishment fundraising strategy. Last month he hosted a private event with Vice President Mike Pence in Edwardsville.

Kelly Campaign Manager Barrett scoffed at the “visitation.”

“Of course, Congressman Bost would hold a closed-door fundraiser with Vice President Pence instead of talking to southern Illinoisans,” Barrett said. “While Brendan tours the district talking with folks about how to save southern Illinois, Mike and Mike are huddled with the big money donors who support their plans that hurt union families, rip away healthcare from 38,000 people in southern Illinois, and raise taxes on charities while giving Wall Street and Big Pharma billions.”

GOP CHARITY TAX

Barrett was referring to the Republican-backed income tax revision, which was recently revealed to include a surprising new tax – charging churches, charities, hospitals and other non-profits 21 percent on certain benefits they provide their employees such as parking spaces.

That new tax will force many of those groups to begin filing returns – a major new financial and administrative burden, approved with Bost’s vote.

“For many people in southern Illinois, churches and nonprofits are necessary to simply survive,” Kelly said in a statement. “It’s wrong, hurtful, and offensive to the conscience for Congress to give Big Pharma and Wall Street banks a huge windfall, while organizations that provide for our most needy are asked to pay more.”

BOST INTENTIONS, WRONG ANSWER

Bost piped up on Twitter recently to congratulate Lauren Kiehna of Steeleville after she competed on the Jeopardy TV show. The attempt at folksiness backfired as Kiehna responded: “Mike, both my Jeopardy dream and my writing career were made possible by my Affordable Care Act insurance plan. Remember when you voted to take affordable healthcare options away from constituents like me last summer? I do. That’s why I’ll be voting for Kelly in November.”

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Kelly plan: Stand up for Organized Labor

Brendan Kelly’s “Save Southern Illinois” plan includes two pages of concerns and solutions directly aimed at the Labor Movement. Here is what he had to say:

“Organized Labor is the backbone of our middle class. The men and women of Organized Labor manufacture our cars, build the roofs over our heads and produce the energy that flows through the grid they built to the schools where they teach our children. They protect us from danger, put out fires, nurse us back to health, bag our groceries, and deliver the packages we order.

“They’ve established two-day weekends, and put their bodies and jobs on the line to improve labor standards, raise wages and accomplish many other things that allow workers all over southern Illinois to live more secure and better lives.

“Over the last 30 years, unions have come under attack after attack from people like Bruce Rauner. Wages have stagnated, and inequality has risen to levels unseen in a century. This is no coincidence. When our unions suffer, our entire middle class suffers.

“We have to stand up for Organized Labor and workers all over America. We must allow and encourage collective bargaining, protect prevailing wage, raise the minimum wage to a living one, and maintain the National Labor Relations Board. We need to prevent federal ‘right-to-work’ legislation from passing, and create a viable plan for paid parental leave. Turning our back on our unions is equivalent to turning our backs on every family in southern Illinois.

“Our young people are our most valuable resource. We can help them stay here and grow our communities by connecting them to unions, apprenticeships, and employer programs that can train them in the specialized skills that businesses need. This way, our young southern Illinois workers remain integral to a rapidly changing economy and we arm our small businesses with a workforce skilled enough to compete against anybody in the world.

“America is at its strongest, and our middle class is at its toughest and most resilient, when our labor unions are valued, supported and growing. Only by standing shoulder to shoulder will we be able to build a country for all of us, not just the powerful few.

“When I serve southern Illinois, I’ll work with anyone from any party to:

• Prevent federal ‘right-to-work’ legislation.

• Continue to fight for prevailing wage, collective bargaining and the National Labor Relations Board.

• Ensure union workers can retire with dignity.

• Fight for a living wage.

• Create more training and apprenticeship programs in high schools and community colleges to help connect young people to unions and acquire the specialized skills employers need.

The plan can be seen or downloaded at brendan4southernil.com. The plan can be found under the “Priorities” heading.

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