When considering what Washington can do to us or for us, the slew of national issues and debates fades. What really seems to be important is what happens close to home: All politics is local.
To narrow the focus further, our relationship with the federal government comes down to jobs and federal decisions that impact the economy of southwestern Illinois. Scott Air Force Base. Steel. Coal. Agriculture. Transportation.
So in the 12th Congressional District, who best serves those needs? It is our opinion that U.S. Rep. Mike Bost has, and will.
Bost is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, so he understands the military. He was a union Murphysboro firefighter, so he understands labor issues and public service. He is a pilot and worked as a truck driver and truck manager, so he understands business and transportation. He spent 20 years in the Illinois House, famously ranting against a sham pension reform bill that he tossed into the air. Call that passion.
He is in his first term, but landed committee assignments on agriculture, veterans’ affairs and small business. He has been visible and active during his first 20 months in office.
He served this area well during his first term, being a vocal advocate for Scott getting the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Even when the agency decided to keep its western headquarters in St. Louis, he aggressively pushed back and sought independent investigation of the decision. He worked the issue hard with members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation as well as with his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, and local Democratic leaders.
He speaks military and intimately understands what makes this area so special and attractive as consolidation looms. As a Marine based at Twentynine Palms he saw locals who held Marines in disdain. He gets the deep respect and support of metro-east residents for the military, and knows that the military sees this area as special — from the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the airmen who retire here.
Bost early on was supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Farmers love the idea for the markets it could open. Steelworkers and manufacturers hate it for the potential for unfair trade.
Bost wants free trade but fair trade, which he no longer believes TPP achieves. After digging into the 15,000-page trade agreement, he said it does not stop currency manipulation, doesn’t do enough to protect U.S. markets and allows another country to join without congressional approval. He reads that as “China,” and that’s a deal breaker.
River transportation is key to the 12th Congressional District, which is the only one in the nation with three navigable waterways. Bost got the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change its regulations and work to stop the Mississippi from cutting a new channel across a southern Illinois river bend that would have created a rapids and bottled up navigation. He wants a two-year budget process to better plan for transportation needs.
He is a coal miner’s grandson, but he wants clean energy when it can meet our needs. It can’t now, with coal providing 40 percent of our energy. Coal also means small town economies live or die, and it leads to lower energy bills for those on fixed incomes.
C.J. Baricevic is the Democrat challenging Bost. He’s smart, passionate and we like the fact that someone young enough to still be paying his student loan debt is so motivated to enter politics. His biggest hurdle is he is trying to take too big a leap. He needs to learn to govern at the local or state level before jumping to the federal level, where his lack of experience would likely force him to cling to his party line, as we’ve heard from him so far, rather than have the confidence to independently represent the interests of this district and change the polarization in D.C.
Bost has paid his dues and understands bi-partisanship and compromise.
“I am one of 435,” Bost said. “I do the best I can to represent the district for the future of my children and grandchildren — whether that’s addressing the economy at home or aggressors abroad.”
We’re planning to vote for Bost.