CARBONDALE – President Donald Trump is coming to Southern Illinois to try and turn back a bid by state Democrats to gain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives after the Nov. 6 election.
The state’s GOP leaders said they welcomed Trump’s visit on Saturday Oct. 27 in Murphysboro intended to boost the candidacy of incumbent Mike Bost, currently involved in a tight re-election race against Democrat challenger Brendan Kelly for Illinois’ 12 Congressional District seat.
Kelly is St. Clair County state’s attorney.
Polls in the race between Bost and Kelly conducted between April and October have all shown Bost leading Kelly, anywhere from 1 to 9 points.
A New York Times/Siena poll conducted between Oct. 18 and 22 showed Bost with a 9-point lead over Kelly, 48 percent to 39 percent with 11 percent undecided. Noted in the poll was the small sample surveyed, "only" 502 people responded to 31,418 calls made.
The same pollster found a month earlier that Bost held a slimmer lead, 44 percent to Kelly's 43 percent and 13 percent undecided. Conducted between Sept. 4 and 6, the poll indicated contact was made with 533 people out of 22,617 calls made.
Candidates for the 12th Congressional District, including Green Party's Randy Auxier, debated at Carbondale television station WSIU Tuesday night.
Kelly took aim at Bost for failing to get the NGA spy agency located at Scott Air Force Base. Bost responded that the "person who made the decision on where it went was the same guy who endorsed you, Barack Obama, and now that is a fact about what happened with NGA,” according to a report from Fox 2 News in St. Louis.
In an interview on Tuesday, Bost said he looked forward to the president's visit on Saturday.
“President Trump enjoys wide support in Southern Illinois and for good reason,” he told the Record. “I’ve worked with him to bring 800 steel jobs back to Granite City, to reform the VA (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs) and give working families a $2,200 tax cut.”
Trump and Bost will appear at the Southern Illinois Airport Hanger 6 located at 605 Flightline Rd. in Murphysboro three miles west of Carbondale in Jackson County. Trump is scheduled to make a speech at 4:30 p.m. and is expected to talk on the subjects of immigration and the economy.
The 12th District covers Alexander, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union and Williamson counties and is one of four key congressional Republican-held seats Democrats hope to take on Nov. 6 to gain a majority in the House.
Kelly told a WPSD Local 6 television news reporter on Oct. 26 he also welcomed Trump’s visit so he could demonstrate to the president how little Bost has done to help residents of Southern Illinois.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said the visit by Trump is the first by a sitting U.S. president to the city since the visit to Southern Illinois University of Bill Clinton in 1996. Stephens told the Southern Illinoisan on Oct. 21 he wanted to talk to Trump about an expanded highway Illinois Route 127 between Carbondale and St. Louis, and also funding for the SIU Carbondale campus.
The planned visit has not been without opposition. Critics of Trump including Carbondale City Councilman Adam Loos called Trump’s visit unwelcome and drafted a four-page resolution stating so which was later withdrawn after other members of the City Council disagreed with the resolution.
Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry canceled a City Council meeting set for Tuesday, Oct. 23, concerned about the potential for mass demonstrations for and against the Trump visit.
An activist community group in Carbondale titled the Flyover Social Center whose mission statement said they hope to foster counterculture discussions and creative collaboration claimed they received a card from a white supremacy group called the “Patriot Front,” which the Center took as a threat of violence.
The Flyover group posted on its Facebook page, “They (Patriot Front) and other fascist street groups mobilize in defense of Trump, laying a groundwork of intimidation to pave the way for his (Trump’s) authoritarian rule.”
However, Barbara Viviano, St. Clair county GOP chair, indicated the visit by the president will galvanize in a positive manner conservative voters.
“Voters seem to be very excited to have the President visit the 12th Congressional District,” she told the Record. “Their reactions have been amazing. Our candidates share that excitement and I believe that enthusiasm will propel voters to turn out to vote for our fine Republican candidates.”
Viviano said a high turnout of Republican voters on election day will change the country for the positive.
“I encourage Republicans and Independents to vote and join us in restoring integrity in public service to our country,” she said. “Our country and 12th District citizens deserve it.”
Carbondale city officials had intended to allow a Halloween celebration the same weekend as Trump’s visit after banning the holiday for a number of years because of rowdy behavior. Asked if plans for the holiday and the potential for drinking alcoholic beverages coinciding with the visit of one of the most controversial presidents in recent years posed a problem, Henry said he remained optimistic things would go smoothly, the Southern Illinoisan report stated.
Those interested in attending Trump's rally need to register.