Candidates for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District will face off for the final time tonight.
Democrat Bill Enyart, Republican Jason Plummer and Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw will participate in a 90-minute de-bate at Lindenwood University in Belleville.
This debate is the candidates’ third, sponsored in a partnership between the Belleville News-Democrat, The Southern Illinoisan, WSIU-TV and Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Lindenwood University is also a sponsor of tonight’s event.
Jeff Couch, editor of the Belleville-News Democrat, said 760 tickets were distributed for tonight’s debate.
“This is the biggest political event of the year in Belleville, besides the Nov. 6 election,” Couch said. “We’re pleased that we’ll have a full house and that folks will be able to hear the candidates’ unfiltered comments on the issues. We believe our partnership with Lindenwood, The Southern Illinoisan, WSIU and the Paul Simon center has been a great success and will hopefully serve as a model for future joint sponsorships.”
The first debate took place Aug. 15 at the studio of WSIU-TV at SIU Carbondale and was broadcast live on television, radio and online.
The second was at Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
WSIU’s Jak Tichenor will again moderate the debate. Panelists include Gary Metro, editor of The Southern Illinoisan, Jennifer Fuller of WSIU and Belleville News-Democrat reporter Beth Hunsdorfer. Candidates will be given two minutes each for opening statements, answers to questions and rebuttals.
At the Sept. 20 debate, there were a number of tense moments between Plummer and Enyart. The audience also became part of the show at times, drowning out candidates and yelling directly at them. One such outburst resulted in the expulsion of a man at the venue who directed his comment toward Plummer.
Each participant’s campaign agreed the crowd’s unruliness was unfortunate, but they were able to get their ideas across.
At an appearance Tuesday, outgoing U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, commented on the race for his position.
Costello has endorsed Enyart for the job, but said with an open seat, it’s anybody’s race.
“This has been a Democratic district before, but not by a lot,” Costello said. “It’s not a safe bet for either party, by far. I expect the race will be close.”
The spoils will go to the candidate who articulates positions important to district residents the best, which, Costello added, includes a number of senior citizens concerned about the future of Social Security and Medicare.
In addition, Costello said he’s looking for answers about support for Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East and how it is expected to come out of anticipated base realignment procedures expected at the federal level next year.
Bradshaw, 59, is an emergency room nurse from Carbondale and political activist.
Enyart, 62, is an attorney from Belleville and recently retired major general who commanded the Illinois National Guard.
Plummer, 30, of Fairview Heights is a businessman and former candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois and an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy reserves.
— Caleb Hale contributed to this report.
On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI