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Congressman John Lewis travels to metro-east, part of Democrats' plan to retake House

Congressman John Lewis implores a crowd of Illinoisan's to get out and vote. The 12th Congressional District race is one of a few that are crucial to Democrats retaking the House of Representatives.
Abigail Censky | St. Louis Public Radio

Georgia Congressman and longtime civil rights leader John Lewis came to East St. Louis Tuesday as part of an effort to urge Democrats to vote in November.

Lewis appeared at New Life Church on behalf of congressional candidate Brendan Kelly, who’s running against Republican incumbent Mike Bost.

His presence at the event underscores how important Illinois’ 12th Congressional District is in Democrats strategy to regain control of the House of Representatives. In order to do that, Democrats need to flip 23 seats.

Lewis was greeted by cheers from the crowd when he arrived at the podium. He drew parallels between his experience as a civil rights advocate to contemporary politics, recalling hearing Dr. Martin Luther King’s words for the first time, inspiring him to get into what he calls “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

He implored the audience to vote.

“It’s time for each and every one of you to go to the polls,” Lewis said.

He paced on the stage, regaling the crowd with stories in between continued pleas.

“We got to save our country,” he said. “We got to save our Democracy. Not for ourselves, but for our children and their children and generations yet unborn. We can do it.”

Such a high-profile appearance signifies just how “in-play” national Democrats consider the district, and how reliant their effort to win back the Housewill be on Democratic voter turnout in similar districts.

A recent poll conducted by NPR/PBS and Newshour/Marist found that Democrats’ edge on voter enthusiasm in advance of the midterms is more precarious after Republican enthusiasm surged after the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In the coming weeks, visits from high-profile Democrats like Lewis could make a difference in close races like the 12th District.

An aggregate of polling from FiveThirtyEight places the chance that Kelly wins at 43.8 percent, and the chance that Bost wins at 56.2 percent.

Kelly said he believes the congressman’s appearance is an indicator of sustained Democratic enthusiasm, and not a sign of waning excitement.

“I think everything is all rowing in the right direction. But in this district, a district that swings back and forth all the time that President Obama won twice before President Trump won, everything is up for grabs. This is going to be a game of inches, and having Congressman John Lewis here to remind people of the power of their vote is very important.”

Lewis agrees. From what he’s observed in his travels stumping for Democrats around the country, he said he’s still predicting a blue wave.

“As I’ve traveled around, whether it’s on the East Coast or Far West, in the heart of the Deep South, people are ready. They’re ready. The blue wave, it’s going to wave,” said Lewis.

Follow Abigail on Twitter @AbigailCensky

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