Metro-East News

Day after 12th District defeat, Kelly has no regrets, ‘put our best foot forward’

Brendan Kelly concedes to Mike Bost in 12th

Democrat Brendan Kelly concedes to Mike Bost in the race for the Illinois 12th Congressional District Tuesday night.
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Democrat Brendan Kelly concedes to Mike Bost in the race for the Illinois 12th Congressional District Tuesday night.

A day after losing a tough race for Congress, Democratic St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly says he wouldn’t have done anything different in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.

“I think we put our best foot forward. I think we were aggressive and it was a well-run campaign,” Kelly said. “I think the (President Donald) Trump effect down south, (and) realignment that we’re seeing in certain parts of the country, in Republican areas that are suburban have gone Democratic, and Democratic areas that are rural have gotten a little more Republican. I think that played a large role. I don’t think there’s any different messaging or different campaign strategy that could have been implemented.”

According to unofficial totals, Bost received 52 percent of the vote in the 12 Southern Illinois counties that make up the 12th District, Kelly received 45 percent, and Green Party candidate Randy Auxier received 3 percent.

Even though Democrats on Tuesday regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Bost victory was a bright spot for the Republican Party.

“Congratulations to Mike Bost on his re-election victory tonight,” the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement Tuesday night. “The contrast was clear: Brendan Kelly spent his whole career giving violent criminals slaps on the wrist, and Mike Bost fights to keep Southern Illinois safe.”

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Surrounded by his campaign team and family, Brendan Kelly concedes to Mike Bost in the Illinois 12th congressional district race. Derik Holtmann

Bost was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Kelly was able to find positives on election night.

“I’m glad the Democrats have taken back the House and there’s going to be a good check and balance that hopefully will be a good thing for the country and not tear the country apart,” Kelly said.

Kelly appears to have outperformed Bost’s previous Democratic opponents but whether he makes another run for Congress is not something he’s decided yet.

In 2016, C.J. Baricevic received 40 percent of the vote; in 2014, then incumbent Bill Enyart received 42 percent.

While talking to his staff before addressing supporters, Kelly had a list of Democrats and Republicans who had lost their first race, but eventually were elected to federal office, including the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, the 44th president, Barack Obama, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, all three of Illinois.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., gestures as he speaks to his supporters with his wife, Tracy, beside him during an election night rally at the Elks Lodge in Murphysboro. Stephen Lance Dennee AP

Kelly wouldn’t say whether he planned a future run and said he has no idea what his political future may be.

“I’m a young guy, I’m only 42. I never thought I would be the state’s attorney, I never thought I’d get a chance to run for Congress. Who knows? In the end it will always be up to the people, we’ll see what happens. I was grateful to take our best shot,” Kelly said Wednesday.

Ultimately candidates in the 2020 election may begin circulating petitions next fall. Instead, Kelly could choose to run for another term as the county’s lead prosecutor.

Kelly garnered 54.57 percent of the vote in St. Clair County, his home county, compared with 42.06 percent for Bost. Kelly said he was proud of the countywide results he had in St. Clair County. In 2012 and 2016, he was unopposed in the state’s attorney elections.

“I like those results. A 12-(point) win is pretty good in St. Clair County, so I think we got quite a few Republicans as well,” Kelly said. “I was glad to have a lot of strong support in my home county. People know my record. Obviously that prosecutorial angle that they took did not work in St. Clair County.”

Kelly referred to television ads that criticized him agreeing to plea deals that allowed some perpetrators to only be sentenced to probation. He said that in cases referred to in attack ads, his office always followed what the victims wanted to do.

“The politics doesn’t make any difference ..., it didn’t change how we approached things,” Kelly said “We’re tough but fair. We’re aggressive in our charging practices and we’re aggressive in negotiations in trying everything we can to pursue justice. We did that according to the law, no more, no less.”

Even though Kelly had more votes in the Madison County and St. Clair County portion of the 12th District where he was more widely known, Bost garnered higher percentages in the southern part of the district, where he is from.

“I think if you look at the deep southern part of the state, Williamson County in particular, went very bad for us, and to be able to overcome that deficit, … as we’re standing here right now, doesn’t appear to be enough,” Kelly said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451; @JoeBReporter