Trump stumps at Southern Illinois Airport rally

President out to boost local congressman, but will Gov. Rauner seek his blessing too?

 President Trump holds a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport on Saturday. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

President Trump holds a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport on Saturday. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Donald Trump makes his second trip to Illinois as president this weekend in a bid to shore up Republican congressmen facing tough re-election battles.

But the question is whether Gov. Bruce Rauner will seek support from the president as well.

Trump is slated to hold a political rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, after holding another political rally Friday night in Charlotte, N.C., as he barnstorms ahead of the midterm elections Nov. 6.

Trump is expected to try to bolster U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro resident, in his fight for re-election against St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.

“I’m honored to have the president visit southern Illinois,” Bost said in a statement on his campaign website. “President Trump enjoys wide support in southern Illinois for good reason. I’ve worked with him to bring 800 steel jobs back in Granite City, reform the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), and give working families a $2,200 tax cut.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, of Taylorville, might also attend, as he’s locked in a tight race with Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield. Bost and Davis attended Trump’s visit to the U.S. Steel Granite City Works this summer.

Rauner avoided that stop, but said earlier this week that he’s “trying to overlap” with the president for this campaign rally. Rauner is reported to be trailing Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker in the polls with less than two weeks to go in the race.

Rauner sent mixed signals on his schedule through Friday. He said on a radio interview that he would ride his motorcycle to Murphysboro to join the Trump appearance, but later his state staff issued his schedule for Saturday stating that the “first family hosts trick-or-treaters at the Governor’s Mansion” at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Trump and Rauner campaigns did not respond to requests for comment about whether the governor would attend Saturday’s rally.

It was perhaps complicated by a Chicago Tribune story published Friday that stated that Trump’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Rauner’s Illinois EPA knew last year that the Sterigenics firm had caused a “cancer cluster” in the western suburbs of Chicago, but withheld the information from the public until August. Local residents have been up in arms about Sterigenics, which Rauner has owned a stake in through his investments.

Trump’s appearance is set for 4:30 p.m. in Hangar 6 at Southern Illinois Airport, 605 Flightline Road, Murphysboro. The Trump campaign posted ticket information online earlier this week. Doors are scheduled to open at 1:30 p.m. for those with tickets.

Word that Trump was considering a visit to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale first broke a week ago. But he shied away from an SIU venue after a Carbondale City Council member raised opposition with a since-withdrawn resolution calling Trump “unwelcome and persona non grata” and labeling his political tactics “fascism.”

Republican candidate for attorney general Erika Harold said this week that she would not be joining Trump in Murphysboro. "We have previously scheduled activities in the suburbs, campaign activities, and so that's what I'll be doing," Harold said at the City Club of Chicago on Thursday. "My focus is on some of the suburban campaign activities that I had previously scheduled, and my choice to maintain those commitments doesn't send a signal of anything other than wanting to keep those commitments."