More than three years after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritkzer won back the governor’s mansion for Democrats, his predecessor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, continues to serve as a political punching bag.
“He’s now Florida’s problem, thankfully,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza said of Rauner on Wednesday at an annual pre-election brunch attended by hundreds of Democratic leaders, adding that she got “much joy and pleasure” from “metaphorically speaking kick(ing) him in the groin” when he was governor.
Vilified though Rauner is among the Democrats, the message at Wednesday’s brunch and subsequent rally at the Illinois State Fair was clear about Republicans’ nominee for governor, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia: He’s worse.
“This man is not fit to do the real job of leading all Illinoisans. My fellow Democrats, there’s simply too much at stake and we must be unified and laser-focused on defeating Darren Bailey’s far right extremist agenda,” Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton said. “The Trump-endorsed extremist Darren Bailey will do everything in his power to try to turn back the clock on our progress. And he has the unmitigated gall to think that the women of Illinois are going to just sit back, sit down and stay silent,” a reference to Bailey’s anti-abortion stance.
Democrats hold all of Illinois’ statewide offices and super-majorities in the legislature, and they’re looking to not only keep it that way come November, but to also tighten their stronghold, including by tipping suburban contests, like the DuPage and Kane County boards.
“We have to elect pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-voting rights, pro-civil rights candidates up and down the Democratic ballot. And the Republicans aren’t going to make it easy,” Pritzker said. “The lunatic fringe has taken over their party. And they’ll say anything, do anything, destroy anything, to get elected.”
Pritzker didn’t attempt to rein in the partisan rhetoric, as he cast Democratic allies as “the coalition of the sane.”
Democrats are unified against Bailey and Republicans, even if there is simmering discord within the Democratic ranks over leadership of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly late last month was pushed out, as Pritzker lobbied to have his choice, state Rep. Lisa Hernandez of Cicero, installed as the state’s party chair. Kelly did not attend the Wednesday events.
Pritzker meanwhile sought to downplay those tensions, noting that the entire statewide ticket – U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Mendoza and secretary of state nominee Alexi Giannoulias – were all part of the festivities.
Meanwhile, Republicans tried to get a word in by flying a plane over the state fair grounds during Democrats’ rally, with a banner for FireJBPritzker.com.
The website, however, did not appear to be operational; as of Wednesday night, the domain is up for grabs.
GOP candidates will have their opportunity on Thursday, when it’s Republican day at the Illinois State Fair.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky