Gov. Bruce Rauner ended his cold war with President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday, appearing in Rosemont literally arm-in-arm with Vice President Mike Pence, who praised his efforts to “unshackle job creators” and “revitalize” the Illinois economy.
“Mike Pence, along with President Trump, are doing it for every American, right now,” Rauner said as he introduced Pence. “We are transforming the American economy. Let’s hear it for them.”
Pence came to the northwest suburb on a mission to help two Illinois Republicans in tough races — Rauner and U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam — in the latest of a series of road trips he has been making to tout Trump’s agenda and rally support for local GOP candidates.
“It is great to be back in the Land of Lincoln with men and women who helped elect a Congress and a president who enacted historic tax cuts that are putting America first,” Pence said.
The vice president, turning to Rauner, said: “Your governor has fought to unshackle job creators and revitalize the economy in Illinois. … People across the country are taking notice.”
Rauner until recently had been distancing himself from Trump.
But the political calculus has changed.
Rauner faces a challenge from Democrat J.B. Pritzker and must also defend his right flank from state Rep. Sam McCann, a Republican running as a conservative with the financial support of Pritzker backers. McCann’s name on the ballot could siphon votes from Rauner.
Rauner is embracing the Trump White House in a bid to repair relations with conservatives whose support he will need in November. A rift with conservatives almost cost Rauner the GOP nomination in the March Illinois primary.
Pence is a former Indiana governor. Friday, Rauner said: “We could learn … from what Vice President Mike Pence did when he was governor and cut the regulations, simplify the tax code, reduce the red tape and now Indiana is one of the fastest-growing states in America. … Indiana is a role model we need right here in the state of Illinois.”
Before appearing at the Westin O’Hare for the “Tax Cuts to Put America First” event, Pence headlined a fundraiser for Roskam at the Sheraton Suites Chicago O’Hare.
Roskam stayed in Washington for House votes. Battling Democratic rival Sean Casten in a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016, Roskam is hoping for backing from independents and crossover Democrats.
Pence highlighted Roskam’s conservative credentials. “He’s taken a strong stand for conservative values every day since he was first elected in 2006. President Trump and I are grateful for the leadership of Congressman Peter Roskam.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., flew to O’Hare with Pence on Air Force Two to be part of a panel discussion about one of Trump’s signature pieces of legislation, the 2017 sweeping tax package.
While tax rates were cut for corporations and individuals, in Illinois the benefit may be reduced because the law also contained a new $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes.
At the Westin, there were chants of “build that wall” or “USA” after Pence made his points — or to shout down the five protestors who interrupted.
State Rep. Christian Mitchell D-Chicago, made his debut as the newly appointed interim executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party, showing up with a bullhorn to lead protests outside the Westin, a sign he will be the first activist state party leader in decades.
“I’m out here because the people of Illinois need to know this is Rauner showing his true colors,” Mitchell said. “He’s standing with a vice president and an administration that is racist and misogynist. The upcoming election vote in November is one of the most important in helping us change this.”
Those protests were organized by a Democratic coalition that included Citizen Action/Illinois; Planned Parenthood of Illinois; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881; and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.
On other matters, Pence:
• Said Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, “deserves the support of every member of the United States Senate, including Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.” The Illinois Democratic senators likely will vote against his confirmation.
• And though some local and national Democrats have called for the abolition of ICE – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (Durbin and Duckworth have not) Pence said, “America is safer, Chicago and Illinois are safer and more secure because of the brave men and women who enforce our laws. And I’ll make you a promise: Under this administration, we will never abolish ICE.”