From the Southern Illinoisan: Bost bests Baricevic, Bradshaw

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost has learned a lot in his first term as the 12th District Congressman.

It’s clear from talking to Bost just how much he has learned: From the adjustment to serving counties outside of his Murphysboro home base, like Madison, Monroe and St. Clair, where the majority of the district’s population lives, to balancing committee work with researching issues outside his area of expertise, to learning acronyms for government programs, to finding ways to get federal dollars to pay for repairs to the Len Small Levee after it was damaged during the recent New Year’s flood.

C.J. Baricevic is young and bombastic, brimming with energy and passion. He loves to talk about his experience working as a lawyer in the Metro East specializing in labor law. He boasts that, if elected, he would be one of the only members of Congress with student loan debt, having finished law school at SIU in 2011. He would also be the youngest member of Congress.

We find Baricevic charming. We believe young people have a place in government, especially representing a district that needs desperately to keep the best and brightest students and workers as it bleeds young, talented people thanks to the Rural Brain Drain and Illinois’ state-level budget problems. We appreciate Baricevic’s enthusiasm and passion. We think he has some good ideas, if he lacks specifics. He understands the broad issues in the district, like the need for investment of federal money in infrastructure improvements and the support of coal as well as renewable resources.

But this is not his time. His youth and inexperience show. At the public debate, we cringed when — as the first to speak — Baricevic fiddled with the microphone and said “Hello? Can you hear me?” in the moment it took for his microphone level to come up. The microphone stand wobbled perilously as he messed with it, until he realized his mic was fine and launched into his opening statement. Things like this make him look unpolished next to the experienced Bost, who served in the Illinois House for 20 years before winning the U.S. 12th District seat.

Baricevic will only get better with practice. We want to see him in public service. He is not ready for this seat — yet.

Paula Bradshaw, the perennial Green Party challenger in the 12th District — this is her third time seeking the seat — is a scrappy fighter who challenges both of her opponents to get money out of politics, spend less on the military, invest in renewable energy and public transportation, and advocate for equitable distribution of wealth.

The idealistic Green New Deal includes some ideas we believe in. We would be glad to see people in congress lobbying for different ideas and changing up the Washington demographic. Bradshaw admitted she could not get the Green New Deal passed on her own as one potential representative from the 12th District of Illinois. But her solution is that everyone around the country should elect Green Party representatives — which is unlikely to happen — and elect Jill Stein as president — which is also unlikely. We would like to see more third party representatives in Congress, but they must understand the challenges they will have to overcome when they get there.

Bost sits on three committees: Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure. His wealth of knowledge on the most dry, but most essential, issues is what impressed us the most.

Bost is proud of his ability to compromise with Congressmen and Congresswomen across the aisle, and he speaks of the importance of listening to his constituents and understanding what is happening in the district. We were impressed by his spirit of compromise — mostly. He explained that, while he does compromise on many issues, even sometimes angering his supporters who would rather he hold his ground, he said, “there are certain things I don’t compromise on. My religious beliefs. I’m pro-life. I’m not going to make an excuse for it. I am what I am.”

While we respect Rep. Bost’s religion, we hope that in his next term he will respect all the religious beliefs of his constituents, including those that are different from his own, and vote according to an adherence to the Constitution, rather than his own beliefs, which a portion of his constituents do not share.

Overall, the Mike Bost coming back to ask for our vote after one term in Congress is a confident, calm, collected representative, who understands the nuance in negotiation. That’s why we think he deserves another term.

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