SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Republicans gathered at the Illinois State Fair Thursday to rally with their favorite lawmakers and candidates. All eyes are on 2022 and the fight to put more GOP members in the Illinois Capitol and governor’s mansion.
Many Republicans shared their goals for the state’s future while bashing Democratic leaders. Illinois GOP members feel they have the momentum right now to change the political landscape in Illinois and Washington DC. Although, their main goal is to fire Gov. JB Pritzker.
Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy called the governor “King Pritzker” and said state Democrats are drunk with power.” Many Republicans hope to turn the blue state purple by gaining support from Democrats looking to leave their party.
“In my travels across Illinois and talking with everyday people, I sense that the pendulum is starting to swing our way. People are starting to say they’ve had enough,” said Tracy.
Republicans hope to add more members to Congress and the Illinois General Assembly. Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie said Republicans need to put together a plan of action and go out there to win. He noted that Wisconsin has supermajorities in the legislature and other Midwestern states are following suit.
“They’ve demonstrated it’s possible. Michigan has demonstrated it’s possible,” McConchie said. “This cycle, Minnesota is gonna demonstrate it’s possible. And Illinois is next on that list.”
McConchie also told supporters the Republican party is the party of ideas. He says the GOP stands up for the rule of law and police. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin shared the same message. Durkin also asked for a moment of silence to honor Brian Pierce Jr and Ella French, both police officers killed in the line of duty.
The Western Springs Republican said everyone owes law enforcement a debt of gratitude. He said Republicans have their back and Democrats don’t.
“Now the governor, he talks about equity. But in my words, equity means defund the police. Don’t forget that folks,” Durkin said. “They want to strip our law enforcement officers from their jobs, from their missions, and demoralize them. I’m not gonna let it happen and no one in this crowd should let it happen either.”
They’re also aiming to take back Illinois by winning the races for state constitutional officers.
“Is everybody with us,” asked Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). “Let’s let today be the day that Illinois Republicans begin the march to victory in 2022.”
But, they’re also hoping to get a Republican back in the White House in 2024.
“It’s embarrassing to see where our country is at because of the lac of leadership from Joe Biden,” said Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria). “So, we have an obligation over the next 14 months as we go into the 2022 cycle to remind people of how bad this is.”
LaHood highlighted problems with inflation, crime, the border, and Afghanistan.
Of course, the biggest race next year will be for the governor’s mansion. Currently, three Republicans have plans to unseat Pritzker. Although, the Illinois GOP chose not to allow their gubernatorial candidates to speak during the event.
Former Sen. Paul Schimpf says Illinois is a phenomenal state that needs new leadership.
“We have an infrastructure that is unmatched, we have the resources,” Schimpf said. “We have the talent, we have the people to be the strongest state in the country. The only thing that’s holding us back right now is a dysfunctional government that doesn’t know how to innovate and doesn’t know how to exercise some fiscal restraint.”
Schimpf says people will see a new direction and stay in the state if he becomes governor. Meanwhile, businessman Gary Rabine hopes to keep businesses in Illinois. He also believes he’ll gain support from some Democrats and moderates.
“I think a lot of them don’t believe that it’s okay to shut down businesses,” Rabine said. “I think a lot of them believe it’s not okay to tell our kids or parents they must do this or that, mandating masks or anything.”
While each of the candidates gains traction, Sen. Darren Bailey had the largest group of supporters at the GOP rally. Many have followed the Southern Illinois lawmaker since his court battles with Pritzker over executive powers early into the pandemic.
However, Bailey feels he has helped inform people across Illinois who didn’t understand state politics. His next goal? Getting hesitant voters to the polls.
“That’s our constitutional duty and I think the silent majority is out there. We just gotta find them,” said Bailey. “And we gotta encourage them and empower them.”
State GOP Chairman Don Tracy says he doesn’t see a front-runner in the governor’s race right now. However, many expect more candidates will announce their intent to run soon.
Thursday’s rally started with an awkward and offensive “comedy” set by the emcee, Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Paul Palazzolo. The local Republican made derogatory jokes about President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Gov. JB Pritzker.
“Yesterday, the governor skipped out on the Democratic Party’s brunch. You know that had to be difficult for him because, well, you know, brunch. In fact, some people say that JB stands for just bacon,” said Palazzolo. “Now with these jokes, I don’t want to say that the governor’s heavy. But these days all of his infrastructure spending is on belts.”
Palazzolo made worse jokes about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and sexual harassment. He also compared former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Adolf Hitler. Several state lawmakers and other supporters were shocked by the jokes, and some looked visibly uncomfortable.
Reporters later asked Tracy if he condoned the jokes that kicked off his event.
“I don’t like fat jokes and I don’t like facelift jokes,” Tracy said. “I like good political jokes about Republicans and Democrats.”
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