By CARL GREEN
Collinsville – Dale Stewart is getting excited about the November election.
Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, recently returned from the 12th Congressional District COPE meeting in Springfield, where the region’s labor candidates were approved for endorsement.
Stewart thinks there is potential to pick up a few seats from anti-labor Republican legislators in the region.
“I think we’re on a roll, moving forward. We’ve got some good candidates,” he told the Council at its most recent meeting.
Two of them are running for the Illinois House of Representatives.
In the 95th House District, longtime Macoupin County official and union member Mike Mathis is challenging Avery Bourne, a little-known appointee of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In the 112th House District, college math teacher and union supporter Katie Stuart of Edwardsville has been working to unseat entrenched Republican incumbent Dwight Kay, a dedicated opponent of labor.
“I think she can get elected,” Stewart said. “She’s not afraid to get out and talk to people and tell them what’s going on and tell them what Dwight Kay hasn’t done, isn’t doing and won’t do.”
Also noted at the COPE meeting was Congressional nominee C.J. Baricevic, the young lawyer from Belleville who is challenging incumbent Mike Bost in the 12th District for the seat long held by Democrats including Jerry Costello.
“We’ve got a real strong chance to win that seat back,” Stewart said.
He noted that several rural southern Illinois legislators face Republican challengers who will be well-funded by Rauner. Among those Democrats are Senator Gary Forby in the 59th District, plus House members Brandon Phelps in the 118th District and John Bradley in the 117th.
Forby has emerged as a strong opponent of Rauner’s anti-union schemes, Stewart added. “He’s definitely bitter enemies with this governor, and he’s not afraid to stand up and tell him what’s what.
“The governor’s trying to destroy us – there’s no question about it. We’ve just got to spend some time educating our members.”
At the same time, Stewart said two of the most important Metro-East races are for the re-elections of county board chairmen Alan Dunstan in Madison County and Mark Kern in St. Clair County, both of whom have been strong labor supporters in an influential position.
“We’ve got to really work hard to support those candidates,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a tough fight. It would totally turn our lives upside down if we lost either one of these guys.”
Stewart concluded: “We’ve got a lot on our plate.”