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Ad war brewing in race for Illinois' 12th District

Thi article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 4, 2012 - Television ads are proliferating in the race for Illinois’ 12th congressional district, which comes as national parties are starting to get involved in the contest for the Metro East-based district.

Capitol Fax, a Illinois political blog run by Rich Miller, discovered that Republican Jason Plummer is running a television ad in the Paducah, Ken., market chastising Democratic nominee Bill Enyart. The ad criticizes Enyart for his comments on the job market during a recent debate in Carbondale.

A voiceover in Plummer’s ad says that “southern Illinois’ economy is hurting" and that "we were promised change, but it never came.”

The ad continues: “And now congressional candidate Bill Enyart thinks that the economy is getting better under President (Barack) Obama. Getting better? Maybe for millionaire trial lawyers like Bill Enyart. But for southern Illinois working families, things are not getting better. Things are getting worse.”  

Plummer has been hammering Enyart for his remark for a couple weeks, even organizing a conference call on Illinois’ economic malaise. The specific comment came during a debate when Enyart talked about helping out people with student loan debt.

After noting that Congress should consider revamping bankruptcy regulations, Enyart said, “We need to have a revision in light of the economic circumstances and in light of the fact that there are job problems today.

“Although the job market is gradually getting better under President Obama, unlike former President (George W.) Bush,” said Enyart, who noted in the debate that the country was adding jobs now as opposed to shedding hundreds of thousands at the end of Bush’s second term.

Although Enyart released a positive television ad earlier this week, he unleashed a radio spot before the Aug. 16 debate criticizing Plummer for not releasing his tax returns.

The “millionaire trial attorney” line, by the way, conforms with how the two candidates have been attacking each other’s backgrounds. Plummer has derisively painted Enyart, a Belleville attorney who recently stepped down as head of the Illinois National Guard, as a "trial lawyer." After pointing out that he worked part-time jobs and received assistance through the G.I. bill to get through college, Enyart said during the debate that Plummer, an executive at RP Lumber, was an "inherited millionaire."

Enyart spokesman Jason Bresler said in a statement: "Not surprising Jason Plummer chose for his first commercial to be negative. Jason Plummer has never accomplished much of anything in his life and has no story to tell so he has decided to tell lies and distortions about Major Gen. (retired) Bill Enyart."

During a Tuesday afternoon appearence on the Dana Loesch show, Plummer said his campaign "didn't realize the TV commercial he was doing was negative."

"If you look at it, all we point out is that the guys said 'the jobs environment under President Obama is getting better,' which it's not," said Plummer, adding that some of the district's counties suffer from high unemployment rates. "And then we point out that the guy's a career trial lawyer. If he thinks pointing out what he does for a living is negative, it seems like a personal problem to me."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a positive ad focusing on Enyart’s service in the Illinois National Guard. It’s expected that third-party groups such as the DCCC and the National Republican Campaign Committee will play a major role in the contest for the district that encompasses a portion of the Metro East. The National Chamber of Commerce has run television commercials aimed at boosting Plummer's candidacy.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.