U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi targeted “Moscow Mitch” — and Gov. J.B Pritzker warned President Trump that a “wall” of Illinois Democrats stand to block him — as Democrats celebrated their first Governor’s Day in five years.
As Democrats basked in the first year after-glow of a state without Republican Bruce Rauner, they also steered clear of a myriad of controversies encircling them during their day at the Illinois State Fair.
Pritzker celebrated his big legislative wins at the annual Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch in Springfield, including legalizing recreational marijuana and raising the minimum wage, while vowing that a “blue tsunami” will continue in Illinois.
The first-time governor painted Illinois as the state that’s doing it right as a battle is underway “for the soul of our nation.”
“Here in Illinois, we built a wall around our country’s most sacred and important values. And we told America that we will keep those values safe until sanity is restored to the White House,” Pritzker said.
“And if Donald Trump wants a piece of that wall, well then he’ll have to go through me,” Pritzker said, and gesturing to the litany of Democrats on hand, including Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Represenatives Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten and congressional candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan.
Joining the Illinois Democrats, Pelosi vowed that her caucus will continue to “invest in building our democracy and saving it from any enemies, foreign and domestic” — mentioning bills passed in the House to combat dark money in politics, fight climate change and target gun violence. And she referred to top Republican Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch,” a nickname Democrats have used for the U.S. Senate majority leader to portray him as too friendly with Russia, criticism McConnell has denied.
“We’ve sent our legislation to the Senate. Moscow Mitch says that he is the Grim Reaper. Imagine describing yourself as the Grim Reaper. That he’s going to bury all this legislation. Well, we have news for him. All this legislation is live and well in the general public,” Pelosi said. “And since I’m in Springfield I’ll just quote a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. He said, ‘Public sentiment is everything.’ With it, you can accomplish almost anything, without it, practically nothing.”
Pelosi, who never directly mentioned Trump’s name, said the president “has no respect for God’s creation, the land of America.”
“No one is above the law. No one is above the law. We all must be held accountable for our actions,” she said in a wide-ranging speech.
Speaking of Dirksen Londrigan, who lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis by about 2,000 votes in 2018, Pelosi said the Democratic candidate and Springfield native is “circling back for that victory.”
And what about the controversies swirling around the state’s Democrats? Such as brunch speaker U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who has been criticized for the lack of diversity of the staff of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee she chairs? Or Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, whose inner circle has attracted the attention of federal investigators over the last several months? Or the possibility that disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will see his prison sentence commuted by Trump?
Mum’s the word. During a media availability after the event, Pelosi took about seven minutes worth of questions while standing next to Pritzker, Durbin, Duckworth and Bustos, who did not take questions.
Madigan, who in recent years spent plenty of time answering questions at similar events, left through a back door after addressing the crowd for less than three minutes — avoiding the optics of him glad handing with Democrats.
Just two weeks ago, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, was indicted on charges accusing him of being a ghost payroller for the Teamsters. The former head of the Senate Labor Committee was then moved to lead the Veterans Affairs Committee — ensuring his paycheck would remain the same.
Speaking to reporters before Wednesday’s brunch, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton again reiterated that the charges against Tom Cullerton, a distant cousin, are “very serious,” but that he is “presumed innocent” until he’s found guilty: “It is what it is and he’s got to face the charges.”
The Senate president offered some optimism, however, for Dirksen Londrigan to defeat Davis in the 13th district, despite it being pro-Trump. John Cullerton said Pelosi is helping to bolster Dirksen Londrigan’s chances: “She spent the night campaigning and raising money and helping out Betsy. Betsy’s got a great chance to win. ... He [Davis] is going to have a tough race, no question.”
John Cullerton said the district, which Dirksen Londrigan lost by just 2,058 votes in 2018, is up for grabs: “It’s a really competitive district, especially in presidential years because it’s got a lot of college campuses.”
He also stood up for Pelosi, claiming she’s no longer a polarizing figure: “Now she’s the center of the Democratic party,” John Cullerton said.
The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday called the Democratic gathering a meeting of “corrupt socialists” and “insiders,” while highlighting Madigan, Bustos, Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.
The Illinois Republican Party earlier on Wednesday predicted lavish speeches about ‘big” things Democrats accomplished. They also predicted “silence on the corruption ravaging their party.”
“Will any Democrat address their colleagues’ corrupt activities, or will they choose to hide and not stand up for taxpayers?” Joe Hackler, spokesman for the party, said in a statement.