MARION -- The three candidates in the 12th Congressional District race faced each other Wednesday in a debate at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
The event was the first in a series of debates leading up to the Nov. 4 election. There was a sizable crowd in attendance in Marion.
Democratic incumbent Bill Enyart touted his “promises and performance” during his two-year term in office; Republican challenger Mike Bost characterized himself as a “public servant” who will stay in touch with his constituents; and Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw called for a Green New Deal that would provide a living wage and a transformation to renewable energy.
Candidates were asked questions on a wide array of subjects, from fracking to minimum wage to jobs to terrorism, with the two primary party candidates mostly addressing each other while Bradshaw traded barbs with both Enyart and Bost.
The candidates differed on the minimum wage. Enyart supports a $10.10 minimum wage as a good start, while Bradshaw said she supports a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour with a single-payer health care system. Bost focused on raising wages through job creation.
“When you raise the amount of work that’s available to people, the natural thing that occurs is the raising of a minimum wage,” Bost said.
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Both Enyart and Bost agreed fracking should go forward under strict regulations, while Bradshaw said she opposes it. She doubts regulations could make hydraulic fracturing a safe method of drilling for oil.
“We must ensure that if we’re going to frack that we have solid environmental regulations,” Enyart said.
Enyart said Main Street is not enjoying the fruits of Wall Street’s recovery, noting economies that are growing have a developed transportation infrastructure. Bost said excessive regulations are preventing the United States from competing in the worldwide market, while Bradshaw insisted regulations are necessary safeguards to prevent tragic accidents.
“What regulations are? They are laws for corporations,” Bradshaw said. “They are laws that keep them from killing people. They are laws to keep them from ripping off consumers. They are laws that keep them from destroying our environment.”
Also during the debate, Bost defended his outburst on the floor of the Illinois House that has been used in political advertising against him. He said he was standing up for the people, stating, “there are times when we need our legislators to stand up for us.”
Bradshaw criticized Bost’s actions on the floor, characterizing them as childish.
“If a 2-year-old throws a tantrum, you wouldn’t send them to Congress,” Bradshaw said.
The three congressional candidates will meet again Oct. 29 in the auditorium at Lindenwood University-Belleville.