Brendan Kelly, Democratic candidate for the 12th Congressional District, hosted a town hall meeting in Waterloo last Wednesday.
Kelly, who serves as St. Clair County State’s Attorney, used the meeting to talk with voters primarily about Social Security and Medicare. He is running against incumbent U.S. Congressman Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) in the Nov. 6 election.
“The issues that are so important to this country right now, in my opinion, are the things that are tearing us apart,” Kelly told an estimated crowd of 60 people. “We know that the country is deeply divided, and while those divisions are happening and while we are arguing over the controversy of the day, the scandal of the day or the tweet of the day, we are missing what is going on at the top.”
“The people in power now, who control Congress, are enabling the growing division in our country,” he added.
Kelly focused mainly on Social Security and Medicare because he also received an endorsement from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare at the meeting. The committee is the second largest senior advocacy group in the country. It typically leans Democrat.
The committee’s president and CEO, Max Richtman, flew in from Washington, D.C., to endorse Kelly.
He said the committee does not often endorse candidates, and when it does the candidates must go through a rigourous process that includes interviews, questionnaires and examining the voting records of incumbents.
Richtman said Kelly passed all the group’s tests with flying colors.
“I wanted to come out here to make this endorsement because, as Brendan said, this is an important race and important to the programs I care about and I believe you care about,” Richtman said.
Kelly and Richtman also fielded questions from the audience on the main issues, but Kelly also answered questions on other issues such as gun control and property taxes.
The first question the duo answered focused on how to prevent Congress from borrowing from Social Security.
“You’ve got to elect people who are not going to do that,” said Kelly, who has served in his current government role for eight years. “I know that sounds like a radical answer, but that’s what you have to do because you can pass one law that says you’re not going to do it then somebody else comes in and has a majority that says now we can do it. So, it is in our hands as citizens to make sure they don’t do that.”
In response to another question, Kelly said he would strive to break through the gridlock that often defines politics.
“I think that’s part of the problem we have: we are not willing to show courage and crossover and show compromise to do what’s right,” he said.
While Kelly was confident in those answers, he admitted when he needed more information before committing one way or another on a policy.
An example of that came when a citizen asked him about implementing a Medicare for All program in the U.S. similar to the national health care program in Canada.
Kelly, who served in the U.S. Navy before getting involved in government, said he could not commit to a stance on that issue because there is not enough information about the consequences of such a measure or how it would be funded.
“That’s why I can’t commit to you that I will vote for some bill when I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it before I vote for anything,” he said.
Kelly also criticized Bost for not hosting such meetings.
“In a democracy, the people are the boss, and if you don’t talk to the boss you should be fired,” he said.
Kelly said this is the 11th town hall he has held during the race, while Bost has hosted none.