Pritzker’s state fair strategy? Blast GOP ‘lunatic fringe’ and bury Dem squabbles: ‘I think we’re all working very well together’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, standing alongside new Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Lisa Hernandez and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, downplayed the intraparty tension, especially around Sen. Dick Durbin, who wanted Rep. Robin Kelly to remain in the top party post.

SHARE Pritzker’s state fair strategy? Blast GOP ‘lunatic fringe’ and bury Dem squabbles: ‘I think we’re all working very well together’
Democrats conclude their rally at the Illinois State Fair. Attending were, left to right, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, state Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs, state Rep. Lisa Hernandez and state Sen. President Don Harmon,

Democrats conclude their rally at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday. Attendees include (from left) U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, state Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza, state Treasurer Michael Frerichs, state Rep. Lisa Hernandez and state Sen. President Don Harmon,

Blue Room Stream

SPRINGFIELD — Weeks after a bruising state party leadership battle, Illinois Democrats on Wednesday vowed they’d stand together in the fight for abortion rights — and in combating election deniers and Republican extremists — in a return of sorts to a traditional Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Abortion remains a key focal point, as Democrats in Illinois and nationally try to further protect women’s reproductive rights after the reversal of Roe v. Wade — and help boost November voter turnout.

“Roe Roe Roe Your Vote” T-shirts were for sale for $25 at the Democrats’ annual brunch at the Bank of Springfield Center.

“Our work honestly is far from over. To protect our fundamental freedoms and fight for working families, we have to elect pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-voting rights, pro-civil rights candidates up and down the Democratic ballot,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

“And the Republicans aren’t going to make it easy. The lunatic fringe has taken over their party and they’ll say anything, do anything, destroy anything to get elected.”

But there were lingering questions about unity among Democrats themselves — with the Democratic Party of Illinois’ former chair, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, not in attendance.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch in Springfield on Wednesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch in Springfield on Wednesday.

Blue Room Stream

Amid intense pressure from Pritzker’s aides, the Matteson Democrat dropped her bid for another term last month a day before party leaders voted to replace her with the governor’s pick, state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero.

And despite Pritzker’s victory in helping to elect Hernandez, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s name was mentioned repeatedly by numerous Democrats in a lengthy brunch that featured 19 speakers.

The Springfield Democrat was a key Kelly backer, and his leadership and calm in the face of chaos in Washington were heralded, even in a slideshow that urged Democrats to “Keep our heroes in Congress” and turned congressional titles into punchy comic book fonts.

Durbin told thousands at the brunch that “it’s time to let everybody know that the big lie is a lie.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch on Wednesday.

Blue Room Stream

“It’s time for everybody to know that stop the steal needs to stop,” Durbin said. “It’s time for us to realize that our party has a message that is positive, looks to the future and brings hope to the people.”

At a shortened rally later on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Pritzker, standing alongside Hernandez and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, once again downplayed the intraparty tension, especially around Durbin.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday.

Blue Room Stream

“Oh, that’s something that you guys in the press are doing,” Pritzker said. “Dick Durbin and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. Tammy Duckworth, Dick Durbin, [Lt. Gov.] Juliana Stratton, our statewide elected officials all work together for the good of Illinois.”

Asked if he should be mending fences after Kelly’s ouster, Pritzker noted, “Well, we had lots of Congress people here today.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois first lady M.K. Pritzker mingle with Democrats on the Director’s Lawn at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in August.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois first lady M.K. Pritzker mingle with Democrats on the Director’s Lawn at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.

Tina Sfondeles/Chicago Sun-Times file

“Most of our delegation has either checked in with or come to the state fair and been part of our festivities,” Pritzker said. “I think we’re all working very well together. If people feel that way, they should stand up and come see any of us that they want to talk to.”

Asked about her absence, Kelly vowed to work with Democrats “whether or not we are unified.”

“Whether or not we are unified, I will work with leaders I trust and respect to ensure that Democrats win in my district, this state and our country on November 8th. The stakes are too high,” Kelly said, calling it “the most important election of our lifetime.”

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, left, speaks to reporters last month; State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, right, speaks during a news conference in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (left) faces reporters last month; state Rep. Lisa Hernandez (right) speaks during a news conference in 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

In her speech, Hernandez said the party “must connect with voters too often left out.” She also vowed to support resources for Spanish language ads and new digital strategies targeting Black and Brown communities.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey was called a part of “Donald Trump’s new Republican Party,” by Illinois Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias, and “the Trump endorsed MAGA extremist” by Stratton.

Pritzker lumped Bailey and former President Donald Trump together as extremists “that just want us to feel alone in the struggles that we’re all facing together.”

Former President Donald Trump, right, ushers gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Darren Bailey to the podium at a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill., in June.

Former President Donald Trump (right) ushers gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Darren Bailey to the podium at a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon in June.

Mike Sorensen/Quincy Herald-Whig via AP

“They want to distract us into believing that marriage equality, Black history, Disney World and library books are more of a threat to our children than AR-15s,” Pritzker said. “They’re attempting to divide America with hateful words and a radical agenda.”

Bailey’s campaign flew a plane over the fair trailing the banner, “FIRE.JBPRITZKER.COM” — despite that website not being functional.

Bailey and the state’s Republicans have their turn Thursday to poke Democrats at the Illinois State Fair’s Republican Day. The GOP nominee’s campaign has been drawing daily $100 gas cards at the fair, which it has dubbed the “Repeal the Pritzker Gas Tax Hike” giveaway.

The Latest
The officer had been stripped of her police powers just days before the shooting after testing positive for drugs, sources said.
The two walked up to a man as he was riding the train at 15 W. 95th St. around 2:40 a.m. Sunday, according to a police alert. They rifled through his pockets and hit him in the head with a bottle.
Through three games, Justin Fields has run more than half as many times as the entire Raiders team.
It’s one thing to get picked on by Aaron Rodgers, but Texans quarterback Davis Mills also had success going at Gordon.
They’ve made their mark running the ball, but a team isn’t going to go far if it can’t pass.