Another hotly contested congressional race is going down in Illinois' southwestern district 12, which cuts through Jackson and St. Clair counties and cities including East St. Louis, Carbondale and Mount Vernon. It's placed in the "battleground" category because there are nearly an equal number of registered Republican and Democratic voters—a quirk that renders Enyart, the Democratic incumbent, especially vulnerable this election cycle. He's facing stiff competition from Republican state Rep. Michael Bost, infamous for his radioactive temper, and less of a threat from Paula Bradshaw, a Green Party candidate. Meanwhile, voters' negative attitudes toward government—and Gov. Pat Quinn in particular—could embolden Bost's chances of trouncing Enyart.
An attorney-businessman with a military background, having served in the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard, the Democratic Enyart has repped the 12th since 2013. He defeated Republican Jason and the Green Party's Bradshaw to win nearly 52 percent of the vote in 2012's general election. He sits atop the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Frontline" program, launched to assist politically unsafe politicians (like himself!), and leads Bost in total campaign contributions, collecting nearly $1 million checks since last fall while his rival raked in $353,154.
The hotheaded Bost, a GOP fixture in the General Assembly since '95, repping the 115th district, is a small business owner and former firefighter who has logged military service as a U.S. Marine. His 2012 statehouse rant, in which he rips into Democratic Speaker Mike Madigan over pension reform, has become infamous and provides endless fodder for Enyart supporters aiming to paint Bost as too volatile to rep the 12th in Washington.
After her 2012 loss, Bradshaw is back for another (long)shot at the highly coveted House seat. Her third-party candidacy immediately puts her in last place, but that hasn't stopped Bradshaw from stepping into the ring. Her central campaign platforms include creating jobs and reducing the effects of climate change.
Ignoring Bradshaw, the Rothenberg Political Report labels the two-way Bost-Enyart match-up a "pure toss-up," writing: "Several polls show Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn well behind in this Downstate district, and that has Enyart backers worried. Democrats portray GOP state Rep. Mike Bost as 'Meltdown Mike' for his infamous tirade on the state House floor, but Bost has worked hard to cast Enyart as 'Beltway Bill' and actually outraised him in the second quarter of this year."
Quinn's improving odds in Illinois' super-competitive gubernatorial race could help sway the outcome in Enyart's favor, if voters haven't made up their minds by now to back Republican Bruce Rauner over the Chicago-based Democrat. And while Bost argues that constituents are responding well to his rant, which is being shown in Enyart-fueled attack ads, the incumbent would most certainly benefit should the Republican launch into another embarrassing diatribe. There is still time.