Metro-East News

One 12th District candidate opts out of debate at Lindenwood

The campaign for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who is seeking a third term in Congress, says he does not plan to participate in a 12th Congressional District candidate debate at Lindenwood University-Belleville on Oct. 16.

The campaign cited the debate format as well as a scheduling conflict that day.

There is an Honor Flight leaving from Marion on Oct. 16. Bost has traditionally met veterans on the trip at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., said Evan Youngblood, one of the organizers for Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois.

Honor Flight participants also are scheduled to have a welcome home celebration in Marion the evening of Oct. 16.

The debate, scheduled to take place in the main auditorium of Lindenwood, will be open to the public, but people will need to have a ticket to attend.

The debate will be moderated by Jak Tichenor, with questions coming from a panel, which will include representatives from the debate co-sponsors the Belleville News-Democrat, Southern Illinoisian, WSIU and the St. Clair County League of Women Voters.

Democratic nominee Brendan Kelly, who is the St. Clair County state’s attorney, as well as Green Party candidate Randy Auxier have committed to the Oct. 16 debate.

Bost, Kelly and Auxier are scheduled to attend a debate planned for the television studios at WSIU in Carbondale on Oct. 23.

Bost Campaign Manager Dustin Rhodes said the campaign has concerns about whether there would be disruptions from the audience at the Oct. 16 debate.

“The format is not preferred,” said Rhodes.

In a subsequent statement, Rhodes said the Bost for campaign “looks forward to participating in the candidate debate scheduled for October 23.”

“Mike Bost takes the responsibilities that go along with being a U.S. Representative very seriously,” Rhodes said. “He is not able to participate in the 12th Congressional District Candidate Debate scheduled for Oct. 16 because he will be seeing off an Honor Flight for Southern Illinois veterans that same evening.”

Rhodes added Bost would be open to having another televised debate in a studio on a different date.

Bost has had concerns about holding town halls because of possible disruptions from protest groups.

Debate organizers plan to have security in place during the event, as it has done in previous congressional debates.

Kelly previously wrote a letter to Bost to have town-hall style debates.

“We will go to whatever debate anybody wants to have,” Kelly said during a recent interview. “We have asked Mike Bost to do three joint-town halls. They have not replied. We have said we will debate anytime anywhere. Thus far we have heard no response whatsoever.”

BND Editor and General Manager Jeffry Couch said the organizers are disappointed by Bost’s decision.

“Regardless, our plan is to move forward and give St. Clair County voters an opportunity to hear candidates for Congress answer relevant questions from our panel of journalists and a League of Women Voters representative in Lindenwood-Belleville’s auditorium,” Couch said. “In case Mr. Bost changes his mind and shows up for the debate, we will have a podium set up along with the podiums for the candidates who are participating, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Auxier.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451; @JoeBReporter