Congressional candidates clash during only televised debate

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CARBONDALE, IL - Tuesday was the first and only televised debate for candidates running for the 12th congressional district in southern Illinois.  Incumbent Rep. Mike Bost (R) is being challenged by Democrat Brendan Kelly and Green Party candidate Randy Auxier.  The candidates debated in Carbondale at television station WSIU.

Some political observers consider this race one of the key political battles in 2018. The race could help determine which party has control of the House of Representatives.

Kelly repeated his assertion that Bost has been part of a republican congress that’s failed to deliver for the average person.  Bost maintained the economy is improving and said he’s worked across party lines to get deals done.  One exchange involved a debate over why Southern Illinois lost out to St. Louis in its bid for the NGA relocation.

“We had the easiest deal in the history of Scott Air Force base to bring the NGA to Scott Air Force Base but our congressman didn’t have a plan,” said Kelly.  “He let it slide by and even when a Republican became president he wasn’t able to make sure the NGA came there.”

Bost responded by saying Sen. Dick Durbin (D) was part of the effort and questioned whether Kelly was willing to call Durbin a failure.

“The person who made the decision on where it went was the same guy who endorsed you, Barack Obama, and now that is a fact about what happened with NGA,” said Bost.

On the economy, Bost said the tax cuts Republicans passed have helped the economy.  Kelly said it has not helped the average southern Illinoisan.  He promised to support organized labor and eliminate unnecessary regulations.  Green Party candidate Randy Auxier said he would focus on infrastructure to improve the economy.

Bost and Kelly sparred over an issue brought out in television ads regarding Kelly’s handling of cases involving violence against women.  Bost has accused Kelly of entering too many plea bargains.  Kelly has said he’s fought for victims by listening to them and carrying out their wishes.

“They also have to worry about lifelong politicians like Mr. Bost using their very personal experience without their permission in a cheap political ad to make sure they get re-elected,” said Kelly.

Bost responded, “I know for a fact the Mr. Kelly’s record gives plea bargains to 50% of defendants including domestic abusers and sexual violent criminals.”

Auxier told voters he was the only candidate who would be a true representative of their interests.

“What’s going on in Washington is not working for southern Illinois. It’s not working for 2 reasons,” he said.  “One of them is the Republicans and the other one is the Democrats.”

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