‘We put our best foot for­ward,’ Kelly says of his 12th District loss

Belleville News-Democrat - - Front Page - BY JOSEPH BUS­TOS jbus­tos@bnd.com

A day after los­ing a tough race for Congress, Demo­cratic St. Clair County State’s At­tor­ney Brendan Kelly says he wouldn’t have done any­thing dif­fer­ent in his bid to un­seat U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Mur­phys­boro.

“I think we put our best foot for­ward. I think we were ag­gres- sive and it was a well-run cam­paign,” Kelly said. “I think the (Pres­i­dent Don­ald) Trump ef­fect down south, (and) realign­ment that we’re see­ing in cer­tain parts of the coun­try, in Repub­li­can ar­eas that are sub­ur­ban have gone Demo­cratic, and Demo­cratic ar­eas that are ru­ral have got­ten a lit­tle more Repub­li­can. I think that played a large role. I don’t think there’s any dif­fer­ent mes­sag­ing or dif- fer­ent cam­paign strat­egy that could have been im­ple­mented.”

Ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial to­tals, Bost re­ceived 52 per­cent of the vote in the 12 south­ern Illi­nois coun­ties that make up the 12th District, Kelly re­ceived 45 per­cent, and Green Party can­di­date Randy Aux­ier re­ceived 3 per­cent.

Even though Democrats on Tues­day re­gained con­trol of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the Bost vic­tory was a bright spot for the Repub­li­can Party.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Mike Bost on his re-elec­tion vic­tory tonight,” the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee said in a state­ment Tues­day night. “The con­trast was clear: Brendan Kelly

spent his whole ca­reer giv­ing vi­o­lent crim­i­nals slaps on the wrist, and Mike Bost fights to keep South­ern Illi­nois safe.”

Bost was un­avail­able for com­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Kelly was able to find pos­i­tives on elec­tion night.

“I’m glad the Democrats have taken back the House and there’s go­ing to be a good check and bal­ance that hope­fully will be a good thing for the coun­try and not tear the coun­try apart,” Kelly said.

Kelly ap­pears to have out­per­formed Bost’s pre­vi­ous Demo­cratic op­po­nents, but whether he makes an­other run for Congress is not some­thing he’s de­cided yet.

In 2016, C.J. Barice­vic re­ceived 40 per­cent of the vote; in 2014, then-in­cum­bent Bill En­yart re­ceived 42 per­cent.

While talk­ing to his staff be­fore ad­dress­ing sup­port­ers, Kelly had a list of Democrats and Repub­li­cans who had lost their first race, but even­tu­ally were elected to fed­eral of­fice, in­clud­ing the 16th pres­i­dent, Abra­ham Lin­coln, the 44th pres­i­dent, Barack Obama, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, all three of Illi­nois.

Kelly wouldn’t say whether he planned a fu­ture run and said he has no idea what his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture may be.

“I’m a young guy, I’m only 42. I never thought I would be the state’s at­tor­ney, I never thought I’d get a chance to run for Congress. Who knows? In the end it will al­ways be up to the peo­ple; we’ll see what hap­pens. I was grate­ful to take our best shot,” Kelly said Wed­nes­day.

Ul­ti­mately, can­di­dates in the 2020 elec­tion may be­gin cir­cu­lat­ing pe­ti­tions next fall. In­stead, Kelly could choose to run for an­other term as the county’s lead pros­e­cu­tor.

Kelly gar­nered 54.57 per­cent of the vote in St. Clair County, his home county, com­pared with 42.06 per­cent for Bost. Kelly said he was proud of the coun­ty­wide re­sults he had in St. Clair County. In 2012 and 2016, he was un­op­posed in the state’s at­tor­ney elec­tions.

“I like those re­sults. A 12-(point) win is pretty good in St. Clair County, so I think we got quite a few Repub­li­cans as well,” Kelly said. “I was glad to have a lot of strong sup­port in my home county. Peo­ple know my record. Ob­vi­ously that pros­e­cu­to­rial an­gle that they took did not work in St. Clair County.”

Kelly re­ferred to tele­vi­sion ads that crit­i­cized him agree­ing to plea deals that al­lowed some per­pe­tra­tors to only be sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion. He said that in cases re­ferred to in at­tack ads, his of­fice al­ways fol­lowed what the vic­tims wanted to do.

“The pol­i­tics doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence ..., it didn’t change how we ap­proached things,” Kelly said “We’re tough but fair. We’re aggressive in our charg­ing prac­tices and we’re aggressive in ne­go­ti­a­tions in try­ing ev­ery­thing we can to pur­sue jus­tice. We did that ac­cord­ing to the law, no more, no less.”

Even though Kelly had more votes in the Madi­son County and St. Clair County por­tion of the 12th District where he was more widely known, Bost gar­nered higher per­cent­ages in the south­ern part of the district, where he is from.

“I think if you look at the deep south­ern part of the state, Wil­liamson County in par­tic­u­lar, went very bad for us, and to be able to over­come that deficit … as we’re stand­ing here right now, doesn’t ap­pear to be enough,” Kelly said.

STEPHEN LANCE DENNEE AP

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., with his wife, Tracy, speaks dur­ing an elec­tion night rally Tues­day in Mur­phys­boro. Ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial to­tals, he got 52 per­cent of votes in the 12th District, Demo­crat Brendan Kelly got 45 per­cent, and Green Party can­di­date Randy Aux­ier got 3 per­cent.

DERIK HOLT­MANN dholt­mann@bnd.com

Sur­rounded by his cam­paign team and fam­ily, Brendan Kelly con­cedes to Mike Bost in the Illi­nois 12th Con­gres­sional District race.

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