PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton formally becomes the Democratic presidential nominee Thursday in Philadelphia at a convention designed to counter what Democrats see as the doom and gloom of the Republicans who put Donald Trump at the top of their ticket.
“The contrast will be great and very positive” for Clinton, said Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.
Republican left Cleveland still not unified — the top Republicans in Illinois are among those shunning Trump — with their disdain for Clinton bringing them together as much as any passion for Trump. An easy applause line for a convention speaker was to suggest that Clinton should be in prison, not running for president.
In contrast, defeated rival Bernie Sanders is telling his troops to vote for Clinton — a message expected to be amplified when he delivers a prime-time address at the convention’s kickoff on Monday.
“You saw Trump trying to taunt Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and that didn’t work,” Cullerton said, a reference to Trump’s acceptance speech, where the Republican presidential hopeful tried to lure in voters angered over the “rigged” system.
“It’s so obvious that we’re much more united and that we are a larger group,” Cullerton said.
The Democrats meet at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with some members of the Illinois delegation gulping at the $600 plus cost of the rooms at the delegation hotel, the Marriott, which for the money at least is well located downtown.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing a bash on Wednesday in Philadelphia that’s expected to attract a string of VIPs. The invitation to the mayoral “Chicago Rockin’ Blues” event says there will be an open bar with live music from Blues Traveler and the Preservation Hall Jazz band at the event, set to run from 10 p.m. through 2 a.m.
In 2012, the party that manuel hosted at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., was among the most sought-after invites. Since then, Emanuel’s political fortunes have fallen. So it’s not clear yet which Illinois Democrats will be attending.
Each night of the convention will offer prominent keynote speakers. On Monday, it’s first lady Michelle Obama and Sanders. Tuesday, it’s former President Bill Clinton. Wednesday will feature President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Thursday, it will be Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
It’s not confirmed yet what night Clinton’s vice presidential pick, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., announced Friday night, will speak.
While there were no Illinois speakers at the Republican convention, the local connections will be stronger in Philadelphia, starting with the Chicago president, the South Side first lady and Clinton herself, born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., has a prime-time speaking slot on Monday, a shoutout to the campaigning he’s done for Clinton, which has taken him to Nevada, Florida, Colorado, New York and home-state Illinois to pitch the Hispanic vote for the former secretary of state.
Clinton also put Gutierrez on the Democratic convention’s platform committee.
Gutierrez said his address will focus on how “immigrant rights” are an extension of a series of other, related issues, including choice when it comes to abortions, gun safety and equal pay for men and women.
Gutierrez said he will speak about the centerpieces of the Democratic agenda: how “the immigrant struggle is the struggle for fairness and for justice for women, for marriage equality, for safety on the streets and gun violence.”
On Tuesday, the program will also include the “Mothers of the Movement,” women whose children died as a result of violence. Among those on the stage from Chicago will be Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot to death in a park near the Obamas’ South Side home, and Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, the Naperville woman who died in a Texas jail after a traffic stop.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., also will be on stage Tuesday, when she joins House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. ,and other female members of the House. Schakowsky is set to speak briefly on abortion choice.
Illinois Democratic Senate nominee Rep. Tammy Duckworth, R-Ill., who is locked in a Senate battle against Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will be featured Thursday. It will be Duckworth’s third time speaking at a convention.
Unlike Illinois’ elected Republican officials like Kirk, who were scarce in Cleveland, the state is exporting a robust contingent of Democrats in Philadelphia, with Democrats in control of Chicago’s City Hall, the Cook County Board, the Illinois General Assembly and most statewide offices.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, and Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, are among 14 Illinois senators attending the convention.
Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta — Chicago native — said, “Democrats will focus on issues, not anger. We’ll offer a positive vision or the future based on lifting America up, not tearing Americans down.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, an elected Clinton delegate, plans to speak at one of the morning breakfasts for Illinois delegates.
Preckwinkle said she thinks Democrats will be more united than the Republicans were, with Sen. Ted Cruz’s refusal in his convention speech to endorse Trump and Trump’s subsequent comments that he didn’t want Cruz’s endorsement now even if it were offered.
“Bernie Sanders has come out to say he ‘s endorsed Hillary and intends to vote for her,” Preckwinkle said. “I think we’ll have a lot more unity.”