Rep. Jerry Costello (D)
Elected: Aug. 1988, 11th full term.
Born: Sept. 25, 1949, E. St. Louis .
Education: Belleville Area Col., A.A. 1971, Maryville Col., B.A. 1973.
Family: Married (Georgia); 3 children.
Elected office: Chmn., St. Clair Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1980–88.
Professional Career: Dir., IL Court Svcs. & Probation, 1973–80; Chmn., Region's Cncl. of Govts., 1980–84.
The congressman from the 12th District is Jerry Costello, a Democrat first elected in 1988. He grew up in a St. Clair County political family—his father was the county sheriff. He graduated from high school in East St. Louis, then the family moved to Belleville. As a young man, Costello went to work for the county as a court bailiff, and eventually worked his way up to administrator of the county court system. He was elected to the St. Clair County Board of Supervisors and became chairman. He waited with some impatience for the retirement of Democratic Rep. Mel Price, who was first elected in 1944 and served for more than 40 years. Price died in office in April 1988. Experienced, well connected, supported by organized labor, Costello was the obvious successor. Yet he received only 51% of the votes in the special election and 53% for a full term.
|Jerry Costello (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (60%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (66%), 1992 (71%), 1990 (66%), 1988 (53%), 1988 (51%)
Costello is a practical-minded, low-profile politician with a centrist voting record that is a bit more liberal on economics than on cultural issues. Seniority has moved him toward top posts on both the Science and Technology and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees, where he is chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee. In 2006, he pushed a bill to require contract talks between the Federal Aviation Administration and the air traffic controllers’ union, but it fell 9 votes short of passage. He wants the federal government to make a much larger contribution to modernize the system. He has criticized airlines for not meeting their commitments for a “passenger bill of rights.” In 2008, the Transportation Committee approved his proposal to ban cell phone use on planes. On the war in Iraq, Costello has been consistently opposed to Bush administration policies and voted against authorizing to use force against Iraq in 2002. (His son was a paratrooper during the Gulf War in 1991.)
In his district work, Costello is attempting to revive his district’s largely dormant high-sulfur coal mines with incentives for clean-coal research and development and has been successful in including several provisions in recent energy bills. He also has worked to secure annual appropriations for the FutureGen clean-coal power plant just outside of his district, which is designed to burn coal without polluting the air. Costello also tries to get as much federal money as he can for infrastructure improvements for downtrodden East St. Louis. Despite setbacks, Costello finally won approval of a new Mississippi River bridge north of the current congested bridge on Interstate 70. In 2008, Costello sought Ethics Committee approval to continue seeking spending earmarks for Southwestern Illinois Community College after his wife, Georgia, was named president of the college.
Costello usually draws no serious challenges at election time. But in 1998, he faced Bill Price, an orthopedic surgeon and son of Mel Price, who switched parties and ran as a Republican. At the time, Costello had been weakened by disclosures at the trial of his former business partner, who ultimately was convicted of trying to obstruct a federal investigation. The trial brought out testimony that Costello was a silent partner in casino deals at a time when he was working on legislation to help an Indian tribe that owned the land for the proposed casinos. Despite an opponent with a well-known and respected name locally, Costello won by a solid 60%-40%. Since then, he has been easily re-elected every two years.