Illinois Democrats, minus Biden, boost election hopefuls
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Joe Biden bowed out as keynote speaker but Illinois Democrats matched the verbal salvos from Republican opponents at their annual state fair rally on Thursday that marked the informal start of the fall campaign.
Biden, the former vice president, did not attend the Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch because of illness. His pinch-hitter, a rising Democrat from Indiana, stepped up with his own critique of President Donald Trump’s America and the state of Illinois after nearly four years of GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said that Rauner, a private equity investor, had promised to bring a business approach to government.
“This governor was handed lemons, and he took those lemons and miraculously turned them into a Dumpster fire,” Buttigieg said. “Who runs a business like that?”
Rauner’s challenger is J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotel chain whom the Republican campaign has tried to link to the powerful Democratic House speaker, Michael Madigan of Chicago. Madigan has been primarily responsible for blocking Rauner’s agenda of business-friendly, anti-union changes that the governor unsuccessfully demanded in exchange for a state budget agreement.
“We know that the promise of Illinois outweighs the problems of Illinois,” Pritzker said to a crowd of about 3,000. “We know that we have to fight to put Springfield back on the side of working families.”
Rauner has said that Pritzker is Madigan’s pawn and that the two plan to increase income taxes further. Pritzker has said he wants to change the Constitution to allow a graduated income tax that will produce more revenue through higher rates on higher incomes.
“We should reverse the damage that Bruce Rauner has done to the state,” Pritzker told reporters after the brunch. “We’re $11 billion further in debt in this state as a result of his intransigence and his unwillingness to compromise.”
Pritzker accused Rauner of attempting to drive a wedge between Democrat-heavy Chicago and the rest of the state, saying, “He’s so divisive that he’s divided his own party.”
Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison responded, “Republicans are united to defeat J.B, Pritzker’s agenda of higher taxes and more corruption. It’s Pritzker and the Democrats who are divided since none of them have the courage to mention Mike Madigan’s name.”
Democrats downplayed the fact that Madigan, also the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, ducked out before the end of Thursday’s program, not mentioning House candidates in his speech or posing for photos.
In his speech, Madigan noted that there are differences among Democrats but the party must be united to win in November.
“Basic rule of Illinois politics: The political party that remains united wins the election,” he said.
In the race for attorney general, Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul defended his record of protecting children against a charge Thursday from his opponent, Republican Erika Harold, that Raoul argued in a 1997 case that two children removed from a home where their baby sibling had been shaken to death should be returned to their mother.
Raoul said he was a court-appointed defense attorney and that a lawyer’s job is to “zealously represent your client.”
That differs, Raoul said, from comments Harold, who was Miss America in 2003, made when she was a 19-year-old contestant for Miss Illinois three years earlier. Harold answered a judge’s question by saying she would put a foster child in the home of a heterosexual couple of known abusers over a loving gay couple. Harold’s campaign said Harold does not recall the exchange but supports “same-sex adoption and foster-care placement.”
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