For Belleville attorney William Enyart, the party has just begun.
Enyart, D-Belleville, is a former Illinois National Guard Commander and SIU law alumnus. The nominee for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District spoke Thursday during Pizza and Politics at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
Enyart is the first of three candidates to visit the event.
But as September approaches, so does the hustle and bustle of a life on the campaign trail.
“It’s great to be at SIU,” Enyart said. “I wish I could spend the entire day here talking to people on campus, but this is just the start of it all.”
James McDonnough, a spokesman with Enyart’s campaign, said the Enyart Camp will spend the next few days in southern Illinois to make up for lost time in the farthest reaches of the district.
Enyart told the Belleville News-Democrat in early June that Democrats in Illinois’ 12th District approached him about replacing Brad Harriman. Harriman dropped out of the race for Congressman Jerry Costello’s seat, citing a worsening but not life-threatening neurological condition.
Enyart then resigned after five years as the Illinois National Guard’s top general to pursue the Democratic nomination.
In a race against Jason Plummer, R-O’Fallon, and Paula Bradshaw, I-Carbondale, Enyart was the first candidate scheduled to visit the institute for Pizza and Politics.
But as attendees ate pizza and asked questions at Thursday’s event, John Jackson, a political science professor emeritus, said Enyart’s late start might be his biggest downfall in the race.
“He’s not on television enough,” he said. “His main opponent got started advertising in this area a lot earlier, and I think that may play out in Plummer’s advantage.”
In a room filled with students and faculty, attendees asked many questions about higher education concerns.
“Despite what the candidates are saying, both parties have cut Pell Grants in the past,” said Tyler Chance, a senior form West Frankfort studying political science. “Politicians are going to be politicians.”
But as for his stance on federal support for higher education such as loan and grant money, Jackson said his views fit best with students’ needs.
“He’s forthright in favor of continuing Pell Grants as they currently exist,” Jackson said. “His Republican opponent says the banks should take care of the loans.”
Enyart said his personal experiences have influenced him to lobby for students.
“I worked as janitor to get through college and had to pay back my student loans just like everybody else,” Enyart said. “Students don’t have time to lobby for themselves. I remember what it’s like to be a student and would do my best to represent them in congress.”
Nominee Jason Plummer is the vice president at R.P. Lumber Company and serves as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves. Plummer is scheduled to visit Pizza and Politics at 5 p.m. Sept. 13.
Paula Bradshaw is an emergency room nurse at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. She will be the last candidate to visit for Pizza and Politics Sept. 18.
Candidates will meet Sept. 20 at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center and Oct. 10 at Lindenwood University in Belleville for two open debates. The last two debates will be streamed live on the Southern Illinoisan and Belleville News Democrat’s websites as well as on WSIU.org.