The retired commander of the Illinois National Guard will keep the 12th Congressional House seat for the Democrats.
Bill Enyart, 63, a Belleville attorney who retired in June as commander of the Illinois National Guard with the rank of major general, won the election to replace U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, DBelleville, who held the seat for 24 years.
Enyart defeated Fairview Heights businessman and Republican Jason Plummer, 30, and Green Party candidate and Carbondale hospital emergency room nurse Paula Bradshaw.
Enyart took the stage at 10:17 p.m. at his campaign party at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville with his wife, Annette Eckert.
To kick off his victory speech, he said, The first thing I said I was going to do when I won was kiss my wife, so he leaned over and kissed his wife to a round of applause.
Im really humbled by the tremendous amount of support I received from my friends and neighbors, he said. They believed in me and believed in what I wanted to do and the message we got out.
Enyart said he would like to serve on the House committees for armed services and energy.
With 619 of the 667 precincts counted, Enyart lead with 136,379 votes over Plummers 121,812 votes. Bradshaw had 15,412 votes.
As of 11:20 p.m. Plummer had not conceded the race, but the Associated Press called Enyart the winner.
Plummer told his crowd of supporters about 10:20 p.m. that he was down four points and about 27 of the precincts still unaccounted for.
Were going to stay here counting, Plummer said.
He said he knew it was getting late and he wanted to say thanks to his supporters before attendees started leaving.
I think were on the right side of the issues, Plummer said.
Enyart said his victory means that the people of Southern Illinois have been very, very pleased with the representation by Congressman Jerry Costello and they see in me a continuation of that kind of representation of the district.
Enyart said he was not daunted by the prospect of entering Congress as a freshman in a House dominated by Republicans. He said based on his experience as commander of the Illinois National Guard, Ive found that when you sit down to work with people, you can get the job done.
Enyart entered the 12th District race in early June, several weeks after Brad Harriman, the winner of the March Democratic primary, had dropped out of the race for health reasons.
Harrimans exit led a panel of Democratic leaders to convene in late June. They unanimously chose Enyart after interviewing him and six other hopefuls.
I first came to this district over 40 years ago to serve my country as an enlisted airman at Scott Air Force Base, and today Im proud to have the opportunity to continue my service and dedication to our community by serving as your vote in Congress, Enyart said.
Im humbled by the support Ive seen from friends and neighbors across Southern Illinois, Enyart said. Thanks to all of you who donated your time, energy and enthusiasm, in just four months weve gone from nothing to a winning campaign against a candidate whos been running for the last four years.
In November 2010, at age 28, Plummer nearly won Illinois lieutenant governors race. He won the GOP primary earlier in the year for lieutenant governor after raising $1.44 million, with the bulk of that sum loaned to the Plummer campaign by Plummer and companies linked to his father.
I want to thank Jason Plummer and Paula Bradshaw for a spirited campaign, Enyart said. I look forward to working with them both in the coming years to make Southern Illinois strong. Enyart ran a campaign highlighting his working class roots, his military background and strong labor union support.
Plummer, in contrast, focused his message on chronic high unemployment in St. Clair County and other 12th District counties.
In addition, Plummer played up perceived voter unhappiness with the Affordable Care Act and what Plummer repeatedly described as cumbersome and unnecessary federal regulations that kept Southern Illinois coal mines closed and hurt family farms.
The intensely contested race took a personal turn almost as soon as Enyart officially entered it.
Enyart repeatedly portrayed his GOP rival as an unproven millionaires son who had never worked for anyone but his father.
Plummer, in turn, depicted Enyart as a millionaire trial lawyer with close links to Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House minority leader and a symbol to conservative of all thats wrong with American liberalism.
Bradshaw, for her part, avoided personal attacks, focusing her energy on efforts to promote a Green New Deal that would create thousands of new jobs in District 12 with huge federally backed investments in wind and solar energy.
In June, Enyart released copies of the 11 most recent years of his and his wifes joint federal income tax returns. Enyart called on Plummer to do likewise, arguing that voters need to know how much Plummer had paid in taxes to determine if he would benefit from tax-cutting policies he supported.
Plummer, however, refused Enyarts demand, contending that financial disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House revealed more meaningful information than tax returns.