SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Republicans converged on Springfield and the Illinois State Fair for Governor's Day.
The annual festivities Wednesday draw a focus on the crucial November balloting. Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to win re-election along with a slate of statewide and congressional candidates.
The fair, historically, has marked the point when campaigns kicks into higher gear. Republicans know it and the tried to boost enthusiasm.
The day began with a Republican rally as the party desperately tries to project unity ahead of the fall campaign.
“We got to fight. We got to be all in,” Governor Bruce Rauner said. “Unite all the Republicans.”
At the top of the ticket, Rauner is locked in brutal and expensive fight with Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
The governor, as he does every year, arrived at the fairground on his Harley.
Rauner has spent the summer attacking Pritzker, including linking billionaire to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“We cannot let Madigan and Pritzker to get total control of this state,” he said. “That is going to mean more taxes and more corruption.”
But while he hammers Pritzker, Rauner is repairing relations with the Right. Conservatives are still fuming over Rauner signing protections for undocumented immigrants and expanding taxpayer-subsidized abortions.
Complicating matters, State Senator Sam McCann, a Republican, is running for governor as an independent potentially taking away votes from Rauner.
At a breakfast Wednesday morning, GOP Party Chair Tim Schneider told activists, it’s crunch time and it’s Rauner or Pritzker.
“This is the World Series here. It’s up to us each and every one of us to go out and work as hard as we possibly can.”
The rest of the GOP statewide ticket attended.
Rauner-funded candidate Erika Harold, is the nominee for Attorney General. A former Miss America, she’s battling Democrat Kwame Raoul.
“This will be a tough fight but as Senator Raoul will find out I might be Miss America but I am not Miss Congeniality,” she said
In a new TV commercial, Harold vows to take on corruption. Rauner said Harold will prosecute Speaker Madigan, though he hasn’t identified any crimes the speaker has committee.
Harold distanced herself from Rauner’s comments and said she will not use the office to punish political opponents.
“ No one has asked me to do anything and I would stand with the independence of the office that I’m running,” Harold said.
Harold received the loudest applause at the breakfast and rally. There is still enormous work left for Republicans. Rauner’s primary opponent, Jeanne Ives, was not here. She told WGN News she was home in Wheaton.
Democrat Day is Thursday.