Southern Illinois GOP congressional candidates compete for Trump conservatives' votes (Part-2).

The lowest one-third of the state is 34 counties. Trump twice earned more than 70% of the vote in the former 15th District, while he won the old 12th District with at least 55% in 2016 and 2020 against President Joe Biden.

Bucking gun laws, fighting inflation, opposing abortion, and locking down the U.S. southern border—an issue that has exploded in Illinois due to 36,000 migrants from Texas—are the issues. The race is on to win over diehard Trump conservatives.

Casey, a 3,300-person hamlet in the northeast “Eastern Bloc” an hour from Bailey's home in Xenia, is noted for its “World's Largest” wind chimes, golf tees, rocking chairs, and more. “America should be ‘America first,’” said 71-year-old Casey resident Marlene Watts. “Our nation has always helped the poor and needy. But now, migrants come first. Americans are sort of last.”

Bailey displays ratings that compare Bost's conservative voting record to right-wing scourge Liz Cheney. Bost claims that the group cherry-picks votes and lists many endorsements besides Trump's.

Bost flipped a district that had not elected a Republican in 70 years, while Melvin Price ruled for 43. Bost labels himself a “governing conservative,” saying he’s “not willing to burn down everything in Washington just so I can keep 100% of what I’m asking for

Bailey is criticized for his ties to firebrands like GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who campaigned for Bailey and opposes congressional Democrats. Will Stephens, Murphysboro's nonpartisan mayor who has served on Bost campaigns since he was a youngster, compares Bailey to Reggie Strickland, a 66-276 boxer who faced everyone in 19 years.

Bailey will “go to Washington — he’s going to do a performance-artist fight and he’s not going to win any fights,” Stephens said. “Then he'll email you to ask for campaign funds.” Bailey responds that he will negotiate with Democrats if they reject “open border” and public school moralizing.

“When you have radicals that want to hijack and destroy public education and life, it makes it awful difficult to compromise with that,” Bailey added. “I’ve worked well with Democrats on specific bills. That wall never existed.”

As in many political races, money may decide. Bost made $1 million in the second half of 2023, spent $574,000, and ended the year with $1.36 million. Bailey had $326,000 in donations, $209,000 spent, and $117,000 left. Monroe County chairman McLean says Bost shouldn't spend it. McLean claimed “Darren Bailey is stirring up the Eastern Bloc Republicans to turn against a seated Republican. Why doesn't he kill a Dem?

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