MASCOUTAH — With only five weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election, 12th U.S. House District candidates Bill Enyart and Jason Plummer busily pressed voter flesh Friday afternoon and promised seniors they would protect Medicare from attempts to downsize and privatize it.
Bill Enyart, the Democratic nominee for the 12th House seat, told an audience of 50 at the Clyde E. Jordan Senior Center, in East St. Louis, that "this is a very easy election. Vote for Barack (Obama) and the next person is Bill Enyart."
Echoing that sentiment was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, who fired up the audience by reminiscing about his days growing up in East St. Louis and, many years later, urging Obama -- then the state's junior U.S. senator -- to run for president.
"I was the first senator to endorse Barack Obama," Durbin said. "And after 12 months, I was still the only senator to endorse him."
Durbin urged the crowd to re-elect Obama because "he's not going to sign the Paul Ryan budget that will be the end of Medicare."
Last year U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House budget panel chief, unveiled a Medicare reform plan would turn the 47-year-old health insurance plan for seniors into a voucher system.
Durbin cited Enyart's "awesome responsibility" as commander of the Illinois National Guard, a job he retired from in June with the rank of major general.
"Can you think of a better background for a man of service to the U.S. House Representatives?" Durbin said. "That's what Bill Enyart is going to bring to this."
A little earlier in the afternoon, and about 22 miles to the east, GOP nominee Plummer told a lunchtime audience Friday afternoon at the Masoutah Senior Center that he aims to keep federal money flowing to Medicare.
"We need to make sure the program is fully funded," Plummer told about 30 elderly voters.
Plummer, 30, of Fairview Heights, also criticized the Ryan Medicare plan because "it leads to the privatization of Medicare. And I don't think we should be marching down that way."
Roy Kissel, 84, of Mascoutah, said he planned to vote for Plummer.
"I think he touched on the way people really feel," Kissel said.
At the Clyde Jordan Senior Center, Edna Mayes, 84, said she has no doubt who will get her vote on Nov. 6: Obama, Enyart and all other candidates with a "D" by their names.
"I'm going to vote straight Democrat," she said.
Plummer is vying with Enyart, 62, a Belleville lawyer , and Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw, 59, a Carbondale emergency room nurse, for the 12th House District seat in the Nov. 6 election.
The three candidates are seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, who is retiring after 24 years in office.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 239-2533.