Bill Enyart, the Democratic nominee for the 12th U.S. House District seat, on Tuesday lashed out at GOP nominee Jason Plummer for claiming that Enyart and his wife, retired St. Clair County Judge Annette Eckert, were unethically taking advantage of state-funded pensions.
"I say this first as a father and a husband, for Mr. Plummer to attack my wife's career of service is unconscionable because nothing matters to me more than my family," Enyart said in a written statement.
In a teleconference for members of the media earlier Tuesday, Plummer accused Enyart and Eckert of exploiting the taxpayer-funded pensions that Eckert paid into through her work as a Cook County employee in the late 1970s, as a part-time instructor at Southwestern Illinois College and as a judge who spent nearly 20 years on the St. Clair County bench.
Plummer, however, acknowledged that Enyart has not yet collected any money from the pension he paid into as the retired commander of the Illinois National Guard.
During the tele-conference, Plummer said Enyart and his family have set an example of "consistently trying to game the system that, because of the way it's been created, is easy for those who are well-connected to game...This is why Illinois is a mess."
Plummer said he is not calling into question the legality of Enyart and Eckert's participation in the state pension system.
"But we are calling the ethics of these things into question," he said. "There's a fine line between ethics and legality."
In his statement, Enyart accused Plummer of lying about his wife.
"From one candidate to another: the facts matter and lying about my wife a week before Election Day proves that Mr. Plummer is not ready to be the voice of Southern Illinois in Washington," Enyart said in the statement.
Plummer, 30, a Fairview Heights real estate developer, is running against Democratic nominee Bill Enyart, 63, a Belleville attorney and former commander of the Illinois National Guard, and Green Party nominee Paula Bradshaw, 59, a Carbondale emergency room nurse.
The three candidates are seeking to succeed U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, who is retiring after 24 years in office.