Democrats Fire Up Their Base at Annual State Fair Rally

In state politics, the Illinois State Fair used to be thought of as the unofficial kickoff to campaign season.

Not anymore.

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Democratic nominee for governor J.B. Pritzker on Thursday asked his party to galvanize in the “final stretch.”

(Both he and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner first started airing general election campaign ads months ago, in June.)

“We’re gonna turn counties across this state blue. We’re gonna elect Democrats up and down the ticket. This is the most important election of our lifetimes so I have just one question for all of you: Are you ready for the fight? Democrats, are you ready for the fight?” Pritzker yelled before a crowd of an estimated 3,000 Democrats attending a party fundraiser, a breakfast put on by the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association fundraiser.

Head of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, made only a brief appearance at the start of the breakfast event, held in the ballroom of a Springfield hotel.

“There’s a basic rule in Illinois politics: the political party that remains united wins the election. It’s our job, our responsibility to stay together. Look around the room, we are different but we are Democrats. If we stay together, we’re gonna win the general election, every Democrat’s gonna be elected,” Madigan said before making his exit.

Madigan’s presence nonetheless loomed – literally, with a “Pritzker ❤️ Madigan” banner flying overhead, but also figuratively.

Attorney general hopeful state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, grew so exasperated by reporters questioning candidates about their connections to Madigan that when a reporter said, “Mike Madigan bounced after his speech, is it wise for them to stay away, is he a liability?” he curtly responded: “My name is Kwame Raoul. Next question. You already asked a question, next question.”

Rauner has spent years building up Madigan as the bogeyman of state government, and is hoping to drag down his opponent by tying Pritzker to Madigan.

When pressed on their connection, Pritkzer said that he is independent, and that should he become governor, he’ll have to work with whomever is speaker of the House.  Pritkzker wouldn’t say whether Democratic state representatives should vote for Madigan for an 18th term, calling it an individual choice.

Another long-time Democrat, Secretary of State Jesse White – who’s held that office for 19 years – used his time at the podium during Thursday’s breakfast to address talk that should he win another term, he’d likely resign mid-term.

White is running again this year, despite having announced his retirement.

“A reporter asked me. ‘Is it true that once you’re elected that you’re going to walk away?’ I reminded him that I served in the military not once, not twice, but three times – I used to jump out of … airplanes. You never jump out of an airplane and stop halfway. It’s all the way,” White said.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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