Early debate tests candidates’ skills

Three untested candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives will introduce themselves to Illinois’ 12th Congressional District tonight in the first of three scheduled debates.

But with the election more than two months away, it’s unclear how many people will pay attention.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said tonight’s debate plays an important role as the candidates first open televised debate.

“This debate matters because it’s between three unseasoned politicians who haven’t yet had a chance to go at one another,” he said. “ The downside, though, is that it’s the middle of August and not many people are paying attention to congressional politics.”

Illinois’ 12th Congressional District sits adjacent to the Mississippi River and stretches from Alton to Cairo.

The candidates look to fill the seat of Jerry Costello, D-East St. Louis, who in the midst of his twelfth term last fall surprised his district by saying he would not seek re-election.

One nominee is retired Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, D-Belleville, of the Illinois National Guard. He is an SIUC Law School alumnus who served as a member of the governor’s cabinet as the principal adviser on military matters. His campaign office did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Nominee Jason Plummer,
R-O’Fallon, works as the vice president at R.P. Lumber Company and serves as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves.

House Speaker John Boehner said in a press release from Plummer’s campaign that there wasn’t a better congressional candidate in the country. He said Plummer’s background in his family business and his background with community involvement, will make him a true asset in the nation’s capital.

Candidate Paula Bradshaw,
I-Carbondale, will be on the ballot after a challenge to her petitions was recently dropped. She is an emergency room nurse at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and a political activist.

Rich Whitney, Bradshaw’s campaign committee chairman, said Congress needs more voices like hers to represent local communities and small businesses.

This trio of fresh faces will debate for the first time in the studio of WSIU-TV in Carbondale.

The station’s senior producer, Jak Tichenor, said the debates will be on the wide range of issues facing Congress.

“We’ll discuss everything from the states’ budget to future of social security,” he said.

Throughout a series of three debates, funded by WSIU-TV, the Southern Illinoisan, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the Belleville News Democrat, affiliates want to give an early look at the congressional nominees.

After tonight’s initial debate, the second and third will be open to the public Sept. 20 at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center and Oct. 10 at  Lindenwood University in Belleville.  The three debates will be streamed live on the Southern Illinoisan and Belleville News Democrat’s websites as well as on WSIU.org.

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About Caleb Motsinger

Caleb Motsinger can be reached at cmotsinger@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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