CHESTER, Ill. (AP) - Democratic leaders on Saturday chose Belleville attorney and retired Illinois National Guard Commander Bill Enyart as the party’s nominee in the race for the 12th Congressional District seat in southern Illinois.
Enyart was the unanimous choice of the 14-member panel, which interviewed seven candidates, the Belleville News Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/KsQ0VC).
Democrats had to find a new nominee after Brad Harriman dropped out last month for medical reasons. Incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello, who is retiring after 24 years in office, was a member of the selection committee.
Enyart, who will face Republican Jason Plummer this fall, said he’s ready to hit the campaign trail.
“We can’t buy this election, but we can outwork them,” said Enyart, who has never held elected public office.
Plummer, a lumber company executive, released a statement Saturday saying he welcomes Enyart to the race and looks forward “to having civil discussions with Bill over the coming months about how to utilize the district’s natural resources and get its residents back to work.”
Only two people, both Democrats, have represented the 12th District since World War II.
The district stretches from the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis to the state’s southernmost tip and encompasses a large swath of territory that’s economically stressed.
Ten candidates were expected to appear for Saturday, but only seven showed before interviews began in front of about two dozen audience members. Besides Enyart, the candidates were Anne Keeley of Smithton, David Phelps of Eldorado, Rob Anderson of Swansea, Jeremy Lincicum of Belleville, Edward Vowell of Belleville and John Bradley of Marion.
The Democratic leaders then deliberated in private before reaching a decision.
The search for Harriman’s replacement followed the same playbook Republicans used last month, when GOP chairmen from the 14 counties in the newly created 13th District chose U.S. Rep. John Shimkus aide Rodney Davis as the November ballot replacement for longtime U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson. Johnson, citing family reasons, had dropped his re-election bid in the district stretching across parts of central and southwestern Illinois.
Harriman dropped out of the 12th District race citing a worsening, surgery-requiring neurological condition.
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