The opening of the Republican Day festivities in Springfield centered more on the man running for governor and what he’s doing for the party than the party itself.
Staffers joked in the back of the room of a ballroom at Springfield’s Hilton hotel that everyone in the party is with Bruce Rauner – that everyone, in a sense, is working for him or with him. And that seems accurate in talking with the other candidates who share the ticket with the wealthy financier.
Case in point: House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) wants to take back a number of seats in the House and void the Democrats’ veto-proof majority – for Rauner.
“We’re going to win seats,” said Durkin. “We need to allow Bruce Rauner to govern after the November election. He needs to have a backstop and that’s the House of Representatives.”
State Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego), who is running for treasurer, talked more about Rauner than he did his own opponent. “There’s a lot of excitement. I think it starts at the top. I think Bruce has done a good job rebuilding this party,” said Cross.
Rauner wouldn’t speak to reporters but did speak to the party faithful and told them he’ll provide money and resources for every Republican running for office – from the top of the ticket all the way to the bottom.
Fast forward a few hours and a made-for-TV entrance opened the rally on the state fairgrounds. A black-helmeted Bruce Rauner rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the fairgrounds to a cheering, chanting crowd.
Rauner closed an hour-plus rally that included an introduction from former Gov. Jim Edgar, a few words from U. S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.), a flashback from House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) about what was popular the year House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) first took the gavel (1983; DeLoreans and Lee Elia), and a prayer from a Baptist pastor who reminded everyone they are not better off than they were four years ago.
The speech itself reviewed Rauner’s usual points about working with lawmakers, ending cronyism, and bringing his business acumen to Springfield.
Beforehand, he told reporters his vow not to take a salary and pension does not necessarily apply to running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti or to future governors; it’s just his way of giving back. He also promised to release his tax returns in October but would not answer whether that also meant individual schedules, which would shed more light on his financial picture.