Democrats rally, target GOP during Wednesday events

·5 min read

Before heading to the state fair for Governor's Day, Democrats convened at the Bank of Springfield Center for the Illinois Democratic County Chair’s Association brunch and to energize their base heading into November.

Speakers at the Wednesday-morning event were a who’s who of Democrats, serving in Springfield, Washington, and even Colorado with visiting U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.

For state Rep. Lisa Hernandez of Cicero, it was her first county chair brunch as the Democratic Party of Illinois chair. Like the 20 speakers at the event, she spoke about the need for a united front and warned of what GOP leadership would look like.

Unity, as in attracting the votes of minority populations, comes as signs of emerging Hispanic support for Republicans nationwide. Whether that comes to pass in Illinois could be a big shift, as 18% of the state population is Hispanic according to the U.S. Census.

“We should work for everyone, not just a privileged class,” said Hernandez, saying Democrats should start making political ads in Spanish.

More:PHOTOS: Governor's Sale of Champions at the Illinois State Fair.

It was Jesse White’s last IDCCA brunch as secretary of state. Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias welcomed White to the stage, saying he will “have big shoes to fill” if elected. White said he will be on the campaign trail rallying Illinoisans for Giannoulias and other state candidates as he steps down after 24 years of service.

“The people of Illinois will benefit from Democratic support,” he said. “We have that now, but we have to ensure that for the future at the ballot box."

Republicans will gather Thursday at the Illinois State Fair for Republican Day.

Besides touting accomplishments, Democrats took the opportunity Wednesday to go on the offensive against past Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey.

Multiple video interludes were presented during the nearly three-hour event, casting Bailey as the more ominous successor of the one-term governor replaced by Pritzker in 2018. Senate President Don Harmon painted the differences simply as “a party that whines and a party that works.”

Work the speakers championed included the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on Monday. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said the legislation invests funds in health care and climate change, along with $13 billion going to rural development programs.

“Across states, communities, and regions, the impact of the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act will be felt by all,” she said in a released statement. Pritzker continued listing accomplishments during his tenure, joining Comptroller Susana Mendoza in mentioning six credit upgrades the state experienced after clearing the bill backlog.

Related:The State of Illinois' rainy day fund tops $1 billion for the first time

That already-small GOP presence in the General Assembly, the governor believes, will shrink even further after Election Day.

“We will reject Darren Bailey’s MAGA that tells people like the people of Highland Park to ‘move on’ just hours after a mass killing with a weapon he calls a ‘beautiful rifle,’” he said during the brunch, that weapon being an AR-15. “He’s so extremist that he would force a 10-year-old rape victim to give birth.”

The Bailey campaign did not respond to a Wednesday request for comment. He recently told WGN News during a June interview that he no longer supports a complete abortion ban, but wants to end "taxpayer-funded abortions."

Democrats later packed the Director's Lawn for Governor's Day, with visitors being bused in for brief speeches from state Democratic leaders and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. The event, advertised as a more of "unity event," was concluded by country music concert by Chris Young brought on by the Pritzker campaign.

Happening jointly with the brunch was a press conference at the state fair, advocating for passage of the “Keep Illinois Home” Tenant Protection Act.

House Bill 5390, also being brought up in the Senate with Senate Bill 3992, would prevent landlords from increasing the rent more than once every 12 months – this sole increase not being allowed to exceed the inflation rate for the same time period.

The Lift the Ban Coalition combines more two dozen groups statewide to advocate for renter’s rights. Organizer Helena Duncan said the need for this legislation comes as many are facing sudden rent increases of substantial amounts.

“What we’re seeing is landlords, particularly corporate landlords, are raising the rents above the rate of inflation,” she said. “They’re not just keeping of with price, they’re using this an opportunity to price gouge their tenants.”

As a result, U.S. Census data shows that 47% of renter households in the state are rent-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on rent.

HB 5390 is sponsored by state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, D-Chicago, and would repeal the 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act which prevents municipalities from enforcing any form of rent control. Gonzalez said his bill is still in the development phase as conversations are ongoing between his staff and rental advocates. Whether action will be taken during the veto session in November, as the wish of the Stop the Ban Coalition, is unknown.

While some of the nuts and bolts are being determined, Gonzalez said his bill should at least partially address the estimated 288,900 affordable housing units shortage in the state.

“The narrative, especially from people who oppose the bill, has been that this just a matter of tenants and landlords,” he said. “But, honestly, this is an issue of tenants and small landlords versus big landlords and developers.”

These bills would also grant tenants expanded access to a free attorney when facing evictions and grant or loan assistance from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to eligible small landlords. “Small” landlords are defined by the legislation as holding up-to 12 dwelling units and must meet criteria set by IDHA, including not increasing rent over the past year.

A previous attempt at repealing the rent control ban came from HB 2192, introduced in 2019, which never made it to the voting stage as the session concluded in January 2021.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Illinois Democrats rally, target GOP on Governor's Day