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Trump endorses incumbent Bost over Bailey in heated race for southern Illinois House seat

U.S. Representative Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, talks a selfie with brothers, Joe Hardin, 71, right, and Dave Hardin, 58, both of Columbia during a campaign event on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Eckert's Country Restaurant in Belleville. Bost is facing a primary challenge in the 12th District of Illinois by former state representative and gubernatorial candidate, Darren Bailey.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, talks a selfie with brothers Joe Hardin, 71, right, and Dave Hardin, 58, both of Columbia, during a campaign event on Saturday at Eckert's Country Restaurant in Belleville.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Mike Bost on Tuesday, in what could be a decisive factor in the competitive primary to represent southern Illinois in Congress.

The Murphysboro Republican, who is serving his fifth term, and his primary opponent, Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, had both sought the former president’s endorsement in their race in the GOP-leaning district.

“Congressman Mike Bost is doing a fantastic job representing the great people of Illinois’ 12th Congressional District,” Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social. “While I like and respect Darren Bailey, and was proud to campaign for him in 2022, Mike Bost was one of the first House committee chairmen to endorse my campaign, and Mike was a stalwart supporter of our America First agenda during my record-setting administration.”

Both Bost and Bailey had received endorsements from the 45th president in previous races. In reaction to the news on Tuesday, Bost, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said Trump’s leadership made the U.S. stronger.

“I will do all I can to help put President Trump back to the White House because we are fighting for the same things: a secure border, a strong Second Amendment, an end to the wokeness plaguing our country, and putting America First,” Bost said in a statement.

Bailey’s campaign said the former state lawmaker will continue to run in the March primary.

“Darren Bailey proudly stands with President Trump despite disagreeing with him on this endorsement,” spokesman Joe DeBose said in a statement. “We look forward to working with President Trump to champion working families, secure our border, defend our freedoms, and put America First — no compromises, no apologies.”

Trump is the latest in a slew of establishment Republicans to endorse the sitting congressman. Others include House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Bailey has won the support of one of the two other GOP members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Hindsboro, as well as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida.

After the Democratic supermajority in the Illinois General Assembly redrew congressional districts in 2021, the state's 12th District became an apparent lock for Republicans. Whoever wins the March 19 primary will be heavily favored to win the November general election.

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.