Photo by Anthony Caciopo
Gov. Bruce Rauner campaigns for the Republican ticket in the Nov. 6 general election while attending the 8th Annual Suburban Republican Family Picnic last Saturday in Palos Park. Behind him are Sean Morrison, Cook County 17th District Commissioner and Erika Harold (right), candidate for attorney general. Between them is Liz Gorman, former 17th District Commissioner and current Illinois Tollway executive director.
By Anthony Caciopo
Regional News Editor
Gov. Bruce Rauner was in Palos Park last Saturday, issuing a call to local Republicans to get out the vote in the Nov. 6 election.
Rauner visited the 8th Annual Suburban Republican Family Picnic on the Village Green, where he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred supporters eager to hear his message about party unity and potential victory.
“Let’s hear it for the Republican party of Illinois,” he shouted. “The party of faith, family, love of God, love of country, limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and personal responsibility.”
“Go Republicans,” he said to cheers and applause. “It’s all about turnout.”
“We’re going to become the majority party of the State of Illinois again,” Rauner said, calling forward Erika Harold, candidate for Attorney General. He raised her hand in a victory gesture.
“Erika Harold is a superstar,” Rauner said. “I’ve known her for six years. Nobody works harder.”
She faces State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) in the Nov. 6 election.
Rauner’s calls for a strong voter turnout were echoed by Sean Morrison, a Palos Park resident, Commissioner of the Cook County 17th District, Cook County Republican chairman and the organizer of the annual picnic.
“If our base turns out,” he said, “Rauner will win. Erika Harold will win. When we turn out our voter base, we can win statewide elections.”
Reflecting on “purely the political science side of it,” Morrison said “elections, especially for statewide candidates, are won or lost in Cook County.
“When a Republican wins a seat, it’s because they did well in Cook County,” he said.
In between his calls for strong voter turnout and party unity, Rauner took on his leading gubernatorial opponent, J.B. Pritzker.
“Nobody fights harder than me and this guy Pritzker is a bad guy,” said Rauner. “We’ve got a couple of big bombs about to land on his head in the next couple weeks. We’re going to expose how corrupt this guy really is.”
Rauner, who said the values of the Republican party are the values of America, criticized his Democratic rival repeatedly for his alleged ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“Pritzker funds Mike Madigan, he uses Madigan’s law firm. He’s corrupt, he pushes tax hikes, he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes and he wants you to pay more,” he told the receptive crowd.
Pritzker is leading the race by as much as 22 percentage points, according to a poll released this week by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
A survey released Sept. 26, conducted by the Center for State Policy and Leadership, the University of Illinois Springfield and National Public Radio Illinois, shows Pritzker leading Rauner by a narrower margin of 35 percent to 23 percent, with 27 percent undecided (or refused to answer) and 15 percent favoring other candidates.
The survey specified to the respondents “If the vote were to be taken today.”
Rauner did not reference any polling results, but continued to drive home the need for a big voter turnout from his constituents.
“We’re out here to rally the troops,” Rauner told The Regional News on the walk back to his car. “This (the picnic) is the grassroots, these are the guys who knock on doors, make phone calls. We’ve got to put together the greatest ground game ever.
“This is the most important election of my lifetime,” he continued. “I’ve lived here (Illinois) 62 years. Everything is on the line. We need to get everybody to the polls.”
Ready to rally voter turnout even before Rauner made his speech, Byril Sanders of Palos Park clutched campaign signs and prepared to hit the streets.
“I’m heading out to pound on doors,” he said. “I support Gov. Rauner because he’s better than the other guy.”
The field of Republican candidates on the ballot included Morrison, who led the fight against the short-lived Cook County Sweetened Beverage Ordinance that taxed certain beverages at a penny per ounce. The ordinance was repealed and expired last December.
Morrison was appointed to the commissioner’s position of the 17th District following the resignation of his predecessor, Liz Gorman, in 2015. She initially departed for a job in the private sector, and is now the executive director of the Illinois Tollway.
He faces his first election Nov. 6, running against Democrat Abdelnasser Rashid of Justice, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Cook County Clerk David Orr.
In addition to Morrison and Erika Harold, other candidates on the ballot who attended the picnic were Jim Dodge, candidate for State Treasurer and Jason Hellend, candidate for Secretary of State.
In the crowd, Marge Stanko of Orland Park said she wanted to come to a GOP event because “every time you try to open your mouth as a Republican, Democrats don’t want to talk with you, they just want to scream.
“It’s irritating to me, the Trump bashing. I voted for our president, I love our president. He put money in my pocket with the tax cuts.
“If you had told someone before the election that Walmart was going to give bonuses to its employees (because of the tax cuts to corporations), they would have said ‘Right, let me send some ice cubes to hell.’”
Photo by Anthony Caciopo
Gov. Bruce Rauner rallies the party faithful at the 8th Annual Suburban Republican Family Picnic in Palos Park. Only a portion of the crowd is visible in this view.
Jim Ralph, also of Orland Park and a first-time attendee at the picnic, said he enjoyed the comments from Rauner and from Harold, the candidate for attorney general.
“She’s a very dynamic, energized person,” he said, citing his number one priority, “Less property taxes.”
Palos Park resident Tom Crowhurst spoke to Rauner as the governor circulated among the crowd.
“I support him and the state of Illinois,” he said. “I wish him nothing but the best. The Republicans of this state certainly deserve better representation than what we’re getting.”
But Paul Jendrycki of DuPage County had a different message for the governor when they met after the speeches.
“My message was if he could overturn funding of abortions with our tax dollars,” said Jendrycki. “That’s just against our faith. I’m here to speak for the unborn. I asked him ‘what about you reversing what you signed into law?’ He said we need to get more pro-life candidates. He avoided the issue.”
Rauner did not attend the 2017 picnic. He had just signed into law House Bill 40, legislation that provides state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions.
At the event last year, Morrison called the governor’s decision not to attend mutually agreeable and that his presence, in light of the controversial new law Rauner had just signed, would be “a distraction.”
“I don’t see much difference between the two parties, and it’s troublesome,” said Jendrycki, as he prepared to head home with his wife, Nancy.
Art Jones, the GOP candidate for the 3rd Congressional district, stood on 123rd Street outside the picnic, barred from entering. Jones is a white-rights advocate, Holocaust denier and former member of the American Nazi party.
“Those low-lifes wouldn’t let me into the grounds,” he said. “The people that Sean Morrison put there refused me entry. They kept out the official Republican candidate. This is absolutely outrageous.”
Morrison told The Regional “To be clear in the simplest of terms, Art Jones is a repugnant, bigoted, hateful, racist, Nazi, pure and simple, a description that really needs no further comment.
“Nazi Art Jones' perception is grossly mistaken. No Republican party organization supports his hate-filled rhetoric. The official Republican party of Illinois, of Cook County and of township organizations of which the 3rd Congressional District is drawn up, DO NOT support or recognize the Nazi Art Jones. In fact, we rebuke him!” said Morrison.
“Yes, Nazi Art Jones is 100 percent correct, I absolutely did bar his attendance at my suburban family picnic. The fact that he refers to me as “a bastard,” to me, is a badge of honor, one that serves to differentiate my core values and character from his.
“Furthermore, as party chairman, I repeat my refrain to all Republicans, to NOT vote for the Nazi Art Jones,” said Morrison. "Either leave that race blank or, preferably, seek the write-in box and write in either Dr. Ken Yerkes or Justin Hanson for 3rd Congressional District.”