Candidates for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District had their last debate Wednesday at Lindenwood University-Belleville.
Jason Plummer, R-O’Fallon; Bill Enyart, D-Belleville; and Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw, of Carbondale, debated on the topics of jobs, taxes and the economy in what the candidates called the district’s blue-collar, military-oriented, eastern St. Louis-area suburbs.
The 12th District makes up the southwestern Illinois tip, and only two men have represented the district since the end of World War II: Democrats Mel Price and incumbent Jerry Costello, who announced last year he would not seek re-election after representing the district for nearly 22 years.
Though Democrats have held the district for 68 years, The New York Times race ratings called the 12th Congressional race a toss-up.
With less than a month left until Election Day and no more scheduled debates, candidates spoke in Wednesday’s debate about their plans to keep St. Clair County’s Scott Air Force Base.
“I’ve already brought units to Scott. I’ve already brought jobs to Scott,” said Enyart, a retired major general in the Illinois National Gaurd. “I’ll have instant credibility in Congress on defense issues.”
Plummer said he wants to help the Air Force base grow, not only because of it’s effect on the area’s economy but also because of the men and women there who protect the nation.
Plummer, the unsuccessful 2010 Republican lieutenant governor candidate, is vice president of corporate development at his family’s R.P. Lumber and is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves at Scott Air Force Base.
However, Bradshaw frames herself as someone who would “address corporate wrongs.” She took a different approach on the subject and suggested a 50-percent cut to the military budget.
“My plan is all about government spending to make a more prosperous economy, not just with the military industrial complex but with actually putting people to work building a sustainable infrastructure,” she said.
Despite the candidates’ early discourse on the future of Scott Air Force Base, the subject of economy dominated Wednesday’s debate.
While Enyart described himself as an experienced leader who would fight for the area’s middle class, Plummer described himself as a small businessman who would bring jobs to the district and a fresh face to Washington.
But the subject that drew the most heated exchange was taxes, specifically tax returns.
Enyart has criticized Plummer, an heir to his family’s lumber fortune, throughout the race for not releasing his tax returns to the public.
“My opponent has failed to show his tax returns for four years,” Enyart said. “Millionaires need to pay their fair share of taxes.”
Plummer responded that voters don’t want attacks, they want answers. He said his tax returns were not public informationb and Plummer accused Enyart of collecting campaign donations from other candidates who haven’t released their own tax returns.
“If you’re not going to be honest with the voters when you’re asking them for their vote, how are you going to treat them if you win?” he said.
Though Enyart said it’s important for district voters to know if Plummer has paid his fair share of taxes, Plummer said he doesn’t believe so.
As the candidates’ race draws to an end, voters can access all three of the debates online to help form their decision.