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Rep. Mike Bost says he's a ‘governing conservative’ ahead of feisty GOP primary

Mike Bost, seated behind a microphone, asks a question during a committee meeting.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2014 — flipping a longtime Democratic stronghold. Previously, he served 20 years in the Illinois statehouse.

Illinois U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, last faced a primary opponent in 2018 when the longtime lawmaker cruised to victory with nearly 84% of the vote.

However, this year former GOP gubernatorial nominee and former state legislator Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, is trying to unseat Bost from the 12th Congressional District when voters go to the polls next month.


“He says I'm a professional politician,” Bost said of Bailey on the Politically Speaking podcast. “Well, he's a professional candidate.”

The winner of the high-profile GOP matchup will likely go on to win the November general election with ease because of the district's strong conservative leanings. After the Illinois General Assembly — controlled by Democratic supermajorities — redrew the districts, the 12th became an apparent lock for Republicans.

The district stretches from the Metro East — including parts of O’Fallon, Shiloh and Scott Air Force Base — to the southern tip of the state that borders both Missouri and Kentucky.

Bost said the key difference between himself and Bailey is that he’s more pragmatic. That makes him a “governing conservative,” Bost said.

“That means I am a conservative, and my voting record shows that I'm a conservative," Bost said. "But I'm not willing to all of a sudden just keep saying no."

Bost chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He also serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Bost previously spent 20 years in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Bost says the U.S.-Mexico border is one of his key issues. He recently objected to a bipartisan Senate proposal that would loop border reform with funding for Ukraine and Israel. Specifically, Bost believes the proposal allows too many migrants into the country before U.S. officials could remove others.

“That's not controlling your borders,” he said. “That's just saying, ‘OK, we're going to slow it down so people won’t notice this is bad.’ That’s not the way to go.”

On Ukraine, Bost has voted twice to send funding to support the country’s ongoing defense against a Russian invasion. To further that support, Bost said he wants to make sure lawmakers include oversight on Ukraine's spending of that money.

Bailey and Bost are ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump. The 45th president has not yet endorsed a candidate in this race.

Bost said he last spoke to Trump in early 2023. However, he’s had multiple discussions with people close to Trump since, Bost said.

“Both the former speaker and the existing speaker have spoken to him about this race and on our behalf,” Bost said.

Trump has endorsed previous Bost reelection campaigns. Trump endorsed Bailey in his failed attempt at governor in 2022.

Currently, Bost holds endorsements from House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, and U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Byron Donalds, R-Florida, and Ronny Jackson, R-Texas.

Early voting began last week in Illinois, and election day is scheduled for March 19.

Bailey appeared on STLPR's Politically Speaking on Monday. Both his and Bost's podcasts can be found at stlpr.org.

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.