Mike Bost with wife Tracy at Bost's campaign announcement |Image: The Southern
MURPHYSBORO – Mike Bost is one of the few remaining lawmakers that was in the Illinois State House during the only two years in decades that Republicans held the majority. He was part of the 1994 Republican sweep led nationally by Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America.
Twenty years later, Bost continues to be a favorite among southern Illinois’ 115th House District, and his popularity is working in his favor as he runs his first bid for Congress.
Words like “energetic” and “passionate” work their way into conversations with those who’ve known Bost for years. He’s successfully set back Washington insiders that insisted only a few months ago he had no chance to unseat Democrat incumbent Bill Enyart in the 12th CD.
But just a few weeks away from the 2014 election, Washington money sources began taking note and are engaging in the campaign, recognizing that Bost could add to Republican U.S. House members’ majority.
If Bost knocks out Enyart, south of I-80 Illinois will be represented in Congress by Republicans John Shimkus, Rodney Davis, Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock. If 17th CD Republican Bobby Schilling were to knock off incumbent Cheri Bustos, Illinois Democrats’ majority in the Illinois congressional caucus would shrink to Chicago-based districts.
The 53 year old Bost’s notable energy has boosted the 17th CD in the polls to a “leans Republican” status. Congressman Enyart, a retired military office, is in trouble. While House Speaker John Boehner was in town last week to boost Bost’s campaign coffers, former Governor Jim Edgar stepped forward to endorse him. The momentum is building, and the hometown former firefighter could find his life dramatically changing as he shifts his focus from state issues to federal ones.
One of his most drastic changes will be serving in Congress as a member of the majority party. Since 1997, Bost, who is loyal to traditional conservative values, has been challenging Democratic domination – most notably, that of House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan.
It was 17 years of frustration that led to Bost’s Illinois House floor outburst last year. A video of Bost’s passionate condemnation of Madigan’s slick legislative maneuvers went viral, and Bost became an overnight sensation among disenchanted Americans. His time in the nation’s eye in which he was expressing frustration with one-party political domination and high jinks struck a chord.
Democrats from within the DC Beltway tried to use Bost’s outburst as a way to turn voters off to him, but instead, it energized them.
“It probably would have been easier to finish out my life working in the 115th District,” Bost told Illinois Review in an interview this summer. “I have nine grandchildren considering this [career move] with my wife and adult children. I had to ask myself, ‘Do I stand up and try to fight to give them a country that will stay and be the country that we love, or do I let it go down the path that it is right now?’”
“No, I decided, enough’s enough. I’ve got to at least try and be able to look them in the eye that I did all I could to pass onto them the same America I love,” Bost said.
The things that really bother Bost about what’s happening in D.C. are similar themes that other conservatives espouse. One is federal over-regulation.
“The Supreme Court ruled on an EPA issue recently, but Congress should have acted early on on that issue. Let me tell you that a bill that would have addressed the EPA regulation passed with the Republican majority in the House. My opponent didn’t vote for it, but came back to the district and told people that he was opposed to what the EPA was doing,” Bost said.
For the most part, federal agencies are unchallenged in the rules they set in place.
“In the state of Illinois, if we pass a piece of legislation and want to implement, we give it to the agency that is going to implement it, and they go back and draft the rules. Then the rules are brought to J-CAR,” Bost said. “The federal government doesn’t have that. They just all of a sudden write willy-nilly rules.”
Bost would like to see that change because those regulations cost jobs.
“There’s a bill that says if the law costs more than $300 million to implement, it has to come back to Congress for approval of the rules. That’s a sensible solution that Congress should pass. It’s similar to the check and balance we have in Illinois.”
Obamacare is another real problem for the economy and job-creating.
“Would I repeal Obamacare? Yes, and come back to the original plan, but let the states do it.”
Bost said he doesn’t believe the federal government should be involved in health care, but should allow companies to pool across state lines to bring health care costs down.
He also doesn’t believe the federal government should be involved in education.
“Whether it be ‘No Child Left Behind’ or Common Core, the federal government should not be controlling our local school districts because each district is unique based on revenue streams and the socio-economic community. Local control makes more sense. Keep the federal government out,” Bost said.
While his opponent Bill Enyart is in his first term in Congress after a career in the military, Bost says his experience in the state legislature has prepared him to hit the ground running if he’s elected on November 4th.
“I’m experienced working across the aisle from my time in Springfield,” Bost, who served as GOP floor leader and caucus chair, said. “While we don’t often get credit for doing that, I’m experienced at reaching out to those in the other party and working with them to get things accomplished.”
He’s also very familiar with how things passed in D.C. will have an impact on his constituents. “I’ve seen firsthand how federal laws put expectations on businesses and services, and a congressman should always be thinking of that when making votes that affect the people back home.”
The people back home like to know their opinions matter to the people they send to D.C. The 12th CD's major publication, The Southern, endorsed Bost, saying they like his positions on issues that matter to the district:
Bost is a supporter of a strong defense -- and of maintaining the level of defense spending necessary to accomplish that. But although not as specific as we would have liked, his record in the Illinois General Assembly leads us to conclude that Bost would be more vigilant in reigning federal government spending than Enyart.
Bost was a leader in work to create the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Act last year and showed he could work with groups having vastly different interests to reach a compromise. That skill; the ability to work toward compromise; is often talked about during campaigns; it’s a lot better when we see it in action.
Action is something Mike Bost is also known for, and with the support of the family for which he is fighting to maintain liberties and tradition, Bost has turned a no-chance congressional race into a possibility.
But it's Bost's passion that drives the action. He said if he gets to D.C., he won't promise that he'll not lose his temper on the U.S. House floor, but he does say he "won't let them run over him."
"Let me say that my passion for doing things right hasn't changed. Yes, there's fine line between Mike Bost and Howard Dean. But enough is enough, and that's what caused me to vent on the House floor," Bost said.
"I will be as passionate, no matter whether I'm elected to Congress or not," he said. "If we just sit around and let people run over us, they will."
For certain, the 12th is a race to watch Tuesday night.