Illinois Republicans embrace Trump
‘We’re proud of our president,’ says GOP state Chairman Schneider
By Ted Cox
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Republican Party fully embraced President Trump at its annual rally at the State Fair Thursday.
“I want the media to know how proud we are of our president in Illinois,” said state GOP Chairman Timothy Schneider on Republican Day at the fair. “We’re proud of our president. He’s doing great things. And he’s going to win.”
That was in marked contrast with last year, when then-Gov. Bruce Rauner led the rally, after criticizing Trump’s treatment of former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, and Schneider himself called for more unity across the state — along with criticism of Democratic gerrymandering.
Of course, Rauner lost, Trump is running for re-election at what figures to be the head of the Republican ticket next year, and that makes all the difference.
“There’s no sugarcoating what happened last year,” Schneider said. “We got shellacked.”
But he insisted the state GOP was rebuilding from the grassroots up, with the president’s policies and rhetoric acting as fertilizer.
“I love it that Illinois Republicans are dedicated to keeping America great, like the president says,” Schneider said. “The Republicans I talk to say that Donald Trump is doing a remarkable job in our nation and in the state of Illinois, with our booming economy, tax cuts for everybody, and finally getting some conservative judges on our Supreme Court.”
“Is this Trump country?” Illinois National GOP Committee Chairwoman Demetra DeMonte said to rouse the crowd of hundreds of Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria said the party can run on Trump’s record.
“If we focus on the results that we’ve seen in this country under Donald Trump over the last two and a half years, we’re going to do well in the next election,” LaHood said.
LaHood, like Schneider, trumpeted the president’s Supreme Court appointments and his 2017 tax cut, along with “securing the border” with Mexico. “This president has stood strong on that,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the event’s keynote speaker, echoed that and also insisted, “He stood up to Russia. He stood up to China.”
But there was no mention of Illinois farmers and the way they’ve struggled with Trump’s tariffs in the trade war with China.
To a person, speakers at the event criticized Democratic ideals and initiatives. They added U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke at Wednesday’s Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch ahead of Governor's Day at the fair, to last year’s dynamic of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, suggesting they were all part of the same political machine.
Illinois Republican National Committee Chairman Richard Porter said the state was under a “government of the corrupt, by the machine, for the benefit of the people who work for the government themselves.”
“We must stand against the Pritzker agenda,” Schneider said. “We stand against the progressive income tax and will defeat it at the ballot box in 2020.”
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin called next year’s referendum on the constitutional amendment required to allow the graduated income tax “a defining moment for the Illinois Republican Party.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington called it a “$3 billion tax hike,” although that’s to be paid by the top 3 percent of wage earners, and said, “To that, we must say no.”
LaHood also took a potshot at U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying that her “AOC” moniker “stands for ‘absolutely out of control.’”
Scalise, who was shot by a gunman at a congressional baseball practice in Washington, D.C., two years ago, gave an impassioned speech and finished by calling next year’s election “a fight between government control over your life or individual freedom.”
“They got Pelosi, we got Scalise,” Schneider said. “We sure did trump them, didn’t we?”