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Rating Change: Bellwether Illinois District Returns to the Playing Field

Democrats land top recruit to challenge Rep. Mike Bost

Illinois Rep. Mike Bost has drawn a high-profile Democratic challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Illinois Rep. Mike Bost has drawn a high-profile Democratic challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Mike Bost’s victory in 2014 might have foreshadowed Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 and the Illinois Republican’s loss in 2018 could be a sign of a Democratic wave in the House. 


Bost gained national attention in 2014 for a 2012 video of him ranting on the Illinois House floor, which fueled Democratic optimism about holding the 12th District seat in the face of a challenging political climate.


But instead of dooming Bost’s candidacy, the video helped him defeat Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart, 53-42 percent, in a district President Barack Obama carried twice, winning a seat Republicans hadn’t held since before World War II.


Bost cruised to victory last fall 54-40 percent over lawyer C.J. Baricevic while Trump carried the downstate seat 55-40 percent over Hillary Clinton, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. (It was a bad night for the entire Baricevic family considering C.J.’s father, St. Clair County Circuit Judge John Baricevic, lost re-election as well.)


With the recent presidential result and Bost’s victories, it might be hard to believe the 12th District is coming back to the Democratic column anytime soon. But Democrats succeeded in getting St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly to run. After years of wooing, Kelly announced his challenge to Bost last week. 


One big question is whether Democrats missed their window of opportunity. The recent election results point to a region that is trending toward Republicans. And from his initial candidacy to his time in Congress, Bost has been consistently underestimated and come out on top.


But the congressman had just $205,000 in his campaign account at the end of March — a mediocre total for a potentially vulnerable incumbent. And Kelly comes to the race with great local reviews (even from some Republicans) and should be a formidable foe. 


We’re changing the Inside Elections rating of the Illinois 12th District race from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, in favor of the Democrats. But the race could get more competitive, and if Bost loses in a district Trump carried by 15 points, it will likely be a sign of a very good night for Democrats across the country.


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