A group of military veterans expressed outrage at a Friday rally about political ads that imply Democrat congressional candidate Bill Enyart, a retired major general of the Illinois National Guard and the agency's former adjutant general, is incompetent and that he has no private sector experience.
"We've seen lots of negative ads hitting the airwaves," said retired Army 1st Sgt. John Crump of Smithton, a veteran of the first and second Gulf Wars. "And we want them to know that when they attack the general, they're attacking us.
"The general is going to do what is right for us," Crump said. "I know he will."
Enyart held a rally at 8 a.m. Friday in front of the veterans monument on the Belleville Public Square.
The ads, run by the Republican Party Super PACs in support of Jason Plummer, say that Enyart "seems like a nice guy, but he just doesn't get it" when it comes to issues concerning the economy.
Plummer opposes Enyart in the 12th U.S. Congressional District to replace retiring longtime Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville. Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw also is running for the seat.
During the event, Enyart pledged to fight for veterans' rights and to protect Social Security and Medicare if elected.
Enyart said the GOP ad's attacks are false and misleading. He pledged that he will not counter negative ads with attack ads of his own.
"I haven't done that," Enyart said. "And I'm not going to do that."
The Democratic National Committee has been running similar ads attacking Plummer.
Plummer could not immediately be reached Friday for comment.
Enyart went on to say that he and his wife, retired St. Clair County Judge Annette Eckert, had a good laugh when they saw the commercials that claim he is a millionaire trial lawyer.
"When my wife heard that, she was the happiest person in the world," Enyart said. "But then she wanted to know where the money is."
Enyart added that he finds it ironic that the ads cast him as a millionaire attorney is one ad and then claimed he has little private sector experience in another.
"Which is it?" Enyart asked. "Am I a millionaire or do I not I have any private sector experience?"
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, who said his son is being shipped out Friday for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, was in attendance at the rally. He said in a time of war, he wants people in power who appreciate military families.
"I want someone who understands what it's like to send our kids off to fight for their country," Eckert said. "I want someone who treasures our sons and daughters."