Trump backs U.S. Rep. Mike Bost in blow to Darren Bailey in downstate GOP battle for Congress

Gun Rights

Former President Donald Trump endorsed downstate U.S. Rep. Mike Bost for reelection Tuesday, dealing a major blow to Darren Bailey’s insurgent challenge in one of the nation’s most closely watched Republican primary races.

Bost, a five-term congressman from Murphysboro, and Bailey, a former state legislator from Xenia who was the losing Republican candidate for governor in 2022, each had sought the backing of the former president for the March 19 GOP primary in the state’s 12th Congressional District, an overwhelmingly Republican rural district that makes up roughly the bottom third of the state.

Trump had backed both men before. He supported Bailey’s unsuccessful bid for governor against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker as well as Bost’s 2022 reelection.

While both men sought the endorsement of the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges and the presumptive GOP 2024 presidential nominee, his backing was considered more critical for Bailey as he challenges a veteran incumbent. Bailey also made repeated visits to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and campaigned on his fealty to Trump.

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But Bailey’s efforts weren’t enough. With less than a month until primary day, the former president said in a Truth Social post, “Mike Bost has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

“Congressman Mike Bost is doing a fantastic job representing the Great People of Illinois’ 12th Congressional District. 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,” Trump posted.

“As Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Mike is doing an incredible job providing our Brave and Patriotic Veterans with the care they deserve. He is working hard to Secure the Border, Champion America,” the former president wrote.

Both Bost and Bailey also are running in the primary as delegates to nominate Trump for president at the Republican National Convention in July — another indication of how powerful the former president remains as a political force in a district that he won with 71% of the vote over President Joe Biden in 2020.

As of the start of the year, Bost had a huge cash-on-hand advantage over Bailey, nearly $1.4 million to $117,383, and the congressman has repeatedly aired ads throughout the district in its low-cost media markets.

Bailey had the backing of several members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who campaigned in the district on Friday. Bost lunged at Gaetz during a closed-door GOP caucus while Gaetz led the ouster of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Bailey also had the backing of neighboring Illinois colleague, U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Hindsboro, another Freedom Caucus member.

Endorsements for Bost included McCarthy’s successor, House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana as well as the National Rifle Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau and other Trump congressional supporters. Last week, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the chair of the House Republican Conference, backed the incumbent.

Bost, as an incumbent, also had the backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Trump’s backing came a day after its chairman, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, met with the former president.

In a posting on “X,” Bost said, “I am honored and humbled to announce that President Donald J. Trump has just endorsed my 2024 reelection campaign!”

Bailey’s campaign noted Trump also praised the challenger in endorsing Bost.

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

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