MURPHYSBORO, Ill. -- A fixture in Southern Illinois politics, state Rep. Mike Bost has served in the legislature for more than a decade. First elected in 1994, the Republican is once again seeking re-election to the 115th House District seat.
He faces a challenge from Green Party candidate Charlie Howe, 62, of Carbondale, Ill.
Bost said he continues to win elections because his views resonate with both Republicans and conservative Democrats.
"Democrats outside of Carbondale in my district are pro-gun, pro-life and don't want government in their lives," he said. "They are Southern Democrats."
Bost represents a district that includes Jackson and Washington counties, half of Union and Perry counties and part of Clinton County.
Bost and Howe favor changing Illinois' tax climate. But they have contrasting views on what's needed to boost business growth and create jobs.
Bost said the state needs a more tax friendly climate to attract new businesses.
Howe favors the Green Party platform, which calls for raising income taxes from 3 percent to 5 percent, increasing corporate income tax, eliminating corporate tax breaks and lowering property taxes by 20 percent to 25 percent.
The income tax increase would be offset for low-income and middle-income families through a refundable credit, Green Party leaders said.
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Howe said the tax plan would generate billions of dollars in tax revenue to help fund such things as education and state employee pension funds.
He opposes state tax breaks for big corporations. "They come here and take advantage of it," Howe said of large corporations.
Howe believes his candidacy for the two-year term can appeal to voters disillusioned with both major political parties. "There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Republicans over the wear and over the jobs issue and with the Democrats over corruption in Illinois," he said.
Howe argues that both the Republican and Democratic parties have been corrupted by money from big corporations. "Where money corrupts, big money corrupts absolutely," he said.
The Green Party, he said, supports policies that protect the environment. "We would like to see planned development that is ecologically sensitive," he said.
"If trees are cut down, we would like to see trees replanted," said Howe. "We would like to see mass transit instead of more four-lane freeways."
Bost said he's also a friend of the environment. "I am an environmentalist. I am a hunter and a fisherman," he explained.
"I believe in clean-coal research, but I believe in using coal," said Bost.
Bost said the Southern Illinois region has little political pull in state government.
"We don't have a lot of pull because we don't have a lot of population," he said. As a result, the region has few legislative seats. The political power and the majority of legislative seats are in the Chicago area.
"Two thirds of Illinois voters as well as two thirds of legislators can see the Sears Tower on a clear day," said Bost.
Howe estimates he'll end up spending only about $4,000 on his campaign, much of it his own money.
He acknowledges that it's difficult for third-party candidates to win. But he remains hopeful. "I think there is a ballpark chance. It is never over until it is over," he said.
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Hometown: Murphysboro, Ill.
Occupation: State legislator, small business owner, formerly a Murphysboro firefighter. Served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Political experience: Has served as a state representative since 1995. Previously served as Jackson County board member, city treasurer of Murphysboro and a trustee of Murphysboro Township.
Education: Attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and John A. Logan Community College. Attended the firefighter academy at the University of Illinois.
Personal: Wife, Tracy, a son and two daughters.
Hometown: Carbondale, Ill.
Occupation: Retired aircraft inspector with the Boeing Co., previously worked in the Oklahoma oil fields. Served in the Army during the Vietnam War, including two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Political experience: Ran for township trustee in Carbondale as a Green Party candidate in 2004. Chairman of the Green Party chapter in Carbondale.
Education: Graduate of California State University-Northridge with a sociology degree and graduate of the University of Hawaii-Manoa with international business degree.