Illinois Democrats rally at State Fair

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 5:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois Democrats held a large celebration in Springfield Wednesday. State Democratic leaders kicked off their big day with the annual Democratic County Chairs’ Association breakfast.

Over a thousand Democrats were welcomed to the Capital City with large signs stating that Illinois Democrats deliver. The party hopes to deliver major victories in November.

It’s a new era for the Democratic Party of Illinois as Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) is transitioning into the top leadership role. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, the previous party chair, did not attend Democratic events Wednesday.

“We Democrats must make sure that our party is truly representative of our great state and our diverse constituencies,” Hernandez told supporters inside the Bank of Springfield Center.

Hernandez said the Democratic Party of Illinois needs to connect with voters who are often left out or not spoken to by leaders. She wants Democrats to raise funds to run Spanish ads and create new media strategies targeting progressive ads for Black and brown communities.

Several leaders said Illinois is in much better shape since former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner lost to JB Pritzker. In fact, Rauner was referred to more times than Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) during the long breakfast celebration. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) said Democrats will continue to lift people up from the “wreckage” the Rauner administration created.

“I see the men and women who are going out to put workplace protections in our Illinois constitution who believe that Right to Work was wrong for Illinois when Bruce Rauner tried to put it in,” Welch said. “They believed it was wrong then and they believe that it’s wrong now.”

Many will also be voting for candidates fighting for abortion protections and the right to choose. Welch said Republicans will not stand up for reproductive freedoms. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said the GOP-controlled Supreme Court took away the right to privacy and bodily autonomy by overturning Roe v. Wade.

“It is not just about abortions,” Duckworth said. It is about access to things like IUDs and other forms of birth control. It is also about access to IVF.”

Duckworth noted that most Republicans running for statewide office are against abortion in cases of rape and to save the life of a mother.

Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) told the large crowd that he has seen a recent trend in national and state politics.

“There’s a party that whines and a party that works,” Harmon said. “Our party, the Democratic party, is the party that works.”

Comptroller Susana Mendoza said she frequently fought against former Gov. Bruce Rauner. But she is happy that Rauner is now “Florida’s problem.” The Democrat joked that she would metaphorically “kick him in the groin with much join and pleasure” when Rauner would battle against her decisions.

Mendoza thanked Democrats for electing Pritzker so she could have a great partner to address the state’s finances. The comptroller’s office no longer faces a massive bill backlog as Mendoza is able to pay most bills within a day.

“By the way, I paid down that bill backlog over a year ago before getting a penny of federal ARPA stimulus dollars in the door,” Mendoza added.

Jesse White also participated in one of his final celebrations as Secretary of State. White told supporters that he will travel up and down the state to ensure the Democratic slate of candidates win. Secretary White endorsed Anna Valencia during the Democratic primary for his role, but he is now helping Alexi Giannoulias battle Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington).

Democrats also unveiled a brand new attack ad against Bailey. An announcer in the video says Rauner was bad but claimed Bailey would be worse for Illinois. Democrats played the Billie Eilish pop hit “Bad Guy” while they revealed Bailey’s controversial 2017 Facebook live statement about the Holocaust and abortion. The video also features a clip of Bailey telling people to move on and celebrate the Fourth of July after the deadly Highland Park shooting.

“The Trump-endorsed, MAGA extremist, Darren Bailey will do everything in his power to try to turn back the clock on our progress,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton.

While Stratton and Pritzker spoke during the ILDCCA breakfast, they also held a short rally on the fairgrounds before a special concert with country star Chris Young. Stratton told the Capitol Bureau that Democrat Day was a wonderful way to get people excited.

“We’re motivated to make sure we elect Democrats,” Stratton said as she headed to the concert stage. Pritzker also stopped to chat with the Bureau before heading to his seat.

“It’s awesome! First of all, what a great day,” Pritzker said. “Plus, people are piling in. It is packed in here.”

The governor was the last Democrat to speak following several short rally cheers from each of the constitutional officers, Duckworth, and Sen. Dick Durbin. Pritzker told supporters that Illinois Democrats have delivered on so many things that he needed a cheat sheet on stage. The large crowd cheered as he shouted out the list of accomplishments.

“The Democratic Party is the party of fiscal responsibility,” Pritzker said. “We’re the party of individual rights. We’re the party of infrastructure, and we’re the party of public safety.”

The Bailey campaign had a plane flying over the fairgrounds during the Governor’s Day celebration promoting a website to “Fire Pritzker.” However, the website the banner promoted was fireJBPritzker.com when the actual web domain Bailey paid for was fireJBPritzker.org. Some Democrats who spotted the plane flying over the concert laughed and said Bailey shouldn’t waste his time and money.

Still, the Bailey campaign wanted to capitalize on the Governor’s Day celebration by launching a new attack ad against Pritzker and putting their new website on display. The latest ad plays off of Pritzker’s 2018 “Think Big” campaign message by saying many of his big policies were “soft on crime.”

“Four years ago, JB Pritzker promised to ‘think big’ in his campaign video, but bigger isn’t better when it comes to crime, taxes, and inflation,” Bailey said Wednesday. “Under JB Pritzker’s failed leadership, Illinois crime has skyrocketed and we now have the second-highest gas tax in the country. While billionaire Pritzker has no trouble getting by, Illinois has become unsafe and unaffordable for hardworking folks.”

Thursday is the annual Republican Day at the State Fair. Bailey, Attorney General nominee Tom DeVore, US Senate nominee Kathy Salvi, Party Chairman Don Tracy, and other GOP leaders are all expected to speak during a rally and lunch.

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