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Harriman officially launches campaign to succeed Costello

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 13, 2011 - St. Clair County's former regional superintendent officially kicked off his congressional bid, pledging to continue Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello's legacy of securing federal funds for projects across southern Illinois.

Brad Harriman -- who until this fall served as St. Clair County regional superintendent of schools -- marked the start of his 12th Congressional District campaign with a new website and a biographical web video. Costello, D-Belleville, is retiring.

For several months, Harriman has been working to win endorsements from the Madison County, Randolph and St. Clair County Democratic parties. An aide said Harriman was not ready to comment on his candidacy when the Beacon wrote about the 12th District race in November.

In an interview Tuesday, Harriman -- who left his post after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn stopped paying regional superintendents -- said he's eager to represent the sprawling district, which includes East St. Louis, Belleville, Granite City and Scott Air Force Base.

"I absolutely want to continue the good work that Congressman Costello has done for the people of the district," Harriman said. "He has done a great job throughout his tenure in Congress of seeing that our federal tax dollars aren't just on a one-way street going to Washington. Those tax dollars are coming back in the form of services, jobs and projects for the people of this district. And I'd like to continue that."

Like many candidates, Harriman said he wants to emphasize job creation. Accomplishing that, he said, could include investing in ports along the Mississippi River, bolstering the district's roads and improving bridges.

Harriman said he would work toward making higher education more accessible. He added the federal government should "assist the local school districts not only on decisions being made on testing ... but also financially."

"We elect our local school boards to run local schools," Harriman said. "And that is fine; those are the people who know best what's going on in their neighborhoods and schools. The federal government should assist those schools. And we know about the state of Illinois and how finances to the schools have been cut in the last couple of years. So I think any way to generate revenue would be a positive thing for local schools."

Besides Harriman, Iraq War veteran Chris Miller and Granite City resident Ken Wiezer are running for the seat. Republicans running for the seat include 2010 GOP lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer, former Belleville mayor Rodger Cook, 2010 Republican congressional nominee Teri Newman and O'Fallon resident Theresa Kormos.

The 12th District has been in Democratic hands for decades, and Costello typically won re-election by significant margins. But Republicans see an opportunity to flip the district, pointing to improved GOP performances in 2010 for statewide contests.

An e-mail from a National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman noted U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady raked in more than 50 percent of the vote in the district. And the fact that the NRCC -- which spends money to assist GOP candidates -- is paying attention could foreshadow a competitive race.

For his part, Harriman said he has the right background to win.

"I'm representative of the majority of people who live in this district," Harriman said. "I came from a blue-collar family. My dad had to work hard to provide for us while we were growing up. We valued hard work, we valued education. And those are the values of the people of the district."

Jason Rosenbaum, a freelance journalist in St. Louis, covers state government and politics.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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