Here are The Southern’s endorsements for local U.S. House seats up for election in the March 20 primary. The general election is Nov. 6.
Republican, District 12: Mike Bost is running for his third term in the U.S. Congress after serving 20 years in the Illinois House of Representatives. Preston Nelson is seeking public office for the first time. In Bost, voters of the 12th District have the prototypical Republican. Bost checks all the boxes: Pro-life, pro-gun and fiscal conservative. In our candidate interviews, Bost also stated unequivocally he opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana. Conversely, he stated he is not a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus. Bost said the voters of the 12th District have sent him to Washington to govern. The Freedom Caucus does not want to govern.
Nelson, in the meantime, is more the classic Libertarian. He believes the best government is the smallest. He believes the primary role of the federal government is to provide a strong military. In terms of infrastructure spending, the Benton native said the federal government has no role in providing infrastructure. In terms of bringing jobs to the region, Nelson also stated that is beyond the score of the federal government.
The choice here is clear. Bost is clearly the best candidate for Southern Illinois.
Democrat, District 12: The Democratic Party has provided voters of the 12th District with two excellent choices. Brendan Kelly, the state’s attorney in St. Clair County, appeals most to centrist voters. He brings more political experience to the race than his opponent, David Bequette, of Columbia. And, he has staked out what have to be considered “safer” positions. His statements on gun control and the legalization of recreational marijuana are appealing to those seeking middle ground. At the same time, Kelly appears to be well-informed on the issues. When pressed for solutions for problems within the district, Kelly seemed to lean heavily on rhetoric.
Bequette, on the other hand, breaks the mold. He is not a St. Clair County officeholder. He doesn’t seek the safe ground. A military veteran, as is Kelly, Bequette made it clear that military-grade weaponry is not appropriate for civilian use. He also favors legalization of recreational marijuana. The Columbia resident also has clear ideas that could bring new jobs to displaced coal miners.
Both Kelly and Bequette are excellent candidates, and voters cannot go wrong either way here. Both would represent the region well, but we endorse Kelly based largely on the experience he brings to the table. If Kelly wins the primary, he would be well advised to look at some of the positions Bequette staked out regarding job and economic opportunities for District 12.
Green, District 12: Randy Auxier is running unopposed in the primary.
Republican, District 15: John Shimkus is running unopposed in the primary.
Democrat, District 15: Both candidates are not from the deep Southern Illinois region, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your attention. Kevin Gaither, of Charleston, and Carl Spoerer, of Mahomet, both agree the Democratic Party needs some mending — a refreshing point of view. Gaither said the party has “no real message,” while Spoerer said the party needs “to come back together.” Both also agree that high-powered guns like AR-15s should be banned to the public, only to be used in the military.
Both also believe that a new voice is needed in the 15th District, and we believe that voice for Democrats should be Spoerer. Spoerer had clearer ideas for the future — such as following the New York model for better higher education and strengthening hospitals through health care bill — that should be intriguing to voters.
Much like the Democrats in the 12th District, voters here have two very good choices, but Spoerer gets our nod.
(Editor’s Note: Les Winkeler did not participate in the 15th District interviews or choices)