(WSIL) -- The November election is still more than six months away, but there are already a few fireworks in the race for Illinois' 12th Congressional District.
Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) has held the seat since 2015. He tells News 3 his focus is not on re-election but rather helping his district through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congressman Bost held a tele-town hall on Thursday--the coronavirus was a main focus.
A local health expert answered questions on the virus' health impacts and local businesses weighed in on the economic impact.
Bost says despite some delays, the relief packages offered to those impacted by COVID-19 are working.
"In comparison to as big of program as it is--its actually gone off pretty smooth. A lot of it was communication between the SBA and our local lenders. Making sure the paperwork was right," Bost said.
Bost says his office is working to keep people informed. He says there are many questions about stimulus checks and unemployment. Bost says many who are filing right now have never done it before.
Bost's democratic challenger in November is Ray Lenzi. He's not mincing words--calling Bost a failed leader.
In a press conference on Thursday, Lenzi called out Bost for not pushing President Trump's administration to do more to fight COVID-19.
"How do you grade the Trump administration's decision to disband the Pandemic Task Force? Was that a good idea Mr. Congressman? Yes or No, was that a good idea to disband the Pandemic Task Force? Please Answer Mr. Congressman," Lenzi said.
That was one of several questions Lenzi had for Congressman Bost. He went on to ask if the President should be doing more to force U.S. manufacturers to create personal protective equipment and ventilators.
Lenzi gave the administration's handling of the epidemic an "F" and then asked Bost to share his thoughts.
He says tackling the pandemic will take big ideas and big changes.
"We need universal health care. Universal health care would have addressed a lot of these problems. We need higher wages for front line workers. This crisis has shown who the real essential workers are and they are some of the lowest paid people in our society. So we need a raise in the minimum wage," Lenzi said.
Lenzi wants to challenge Bost to a series of 12 debates. One in each of the 12 counties in the district. Lenzi says they could be in person or online if social distancing is still required.
Lenzi is also pushing Bost to agree to spend $500,000 or less for the campaign.
Congressman Bost tells News 3 he's not ready to shift his focus into campaign mode right now.
"I am working. I am working hard. My staff is working hard from remote locations. People study the issues and support the person you want. We'll have an election. But my job right now is to make sure my constituents are safe. That they are being given the information they need as quick as possible. And no matter what I do--I will have an opponent that will criticize me," Bost said.