A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner called the Illinois Democratic Party a "corrupt political machine" during a rally at the Illinois State Fair, Democrats fired back on Thursday, accusing Rauner of holding the needy hostage over his reform agenda and mocking the state GOP for trying to distance itself from Donald Trump.
"We're going to actually do something the Republicans couldn't do yesterday, couldn't bring themselves to do," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told the crowd at the annual Democratic County Chairmen's Association breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. "We're going to actually say the name of our presidential nominee out loud because we are proud of Hillary Clinton."
A few hours later, at Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair, Durbin took another dig at the Republicans, who in their Governor's Day rally at the fair a day earlier barely mentioned Trump's name.
"(A)ll the Republicans who came here yesterday tried to deny the obvious," Durbin said. "Their candidate for president is unfit, unfit to be president of the United States."
Where Rauner had used his address to unite the Republican party faithful against what he called a "corrupt political machine," the Democrats rallied around a call for a united front against Rauner's agenda.
"No. 1, I think we can come together in opposition to the extremism of Donald Trump," said House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. "No. 2, I think we can all come together in opposition to the extremism of Bruce Rauner."
Throughout a historic budget impasse that has found the state operating without a full budget for more than a year, Madigan repeatedly has characterized Rauner as "operating in the extreme" due to the union-weakening demands on which Rauner has made budget negotiations contingent. He continued that theme on Thursday, with the connection of Rauner to Trump added as an extra twist.
Madigan reiterated his oft-repeated charge the Rauner's approach to government seeks to lower the wages and standard of living of the middle class by weakening unions, doing away with prevailing wage requirements for public construction projects and putting a greater burden of proof on workers in workers' compensation cases. He says Rauner is trying to reverse a fundamental government philosophy that dates back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1933.
"For 83 years the American national government and state governments including Illinois have always worked to raise wage levels and the standard of living and to protect the vulnerable in our society...," Madigan said. "However, today in Illinois, Gov. Rauner is attempting to advance an extreme agenda that would actually take Illinois in the opposite direction."
While Rauner on Wednesday said Republicans were about to launch the "biggest ground game ever" to get Republicans elected to the Legislature in November, Madigan predicted the effort would fail.
"He could learn from history that Illinois is not ready for his extreme agenda," Madigan said at a press conference after his speech.
In addition to the presidency, there are two statewide election in November, and both are shaping up to be hotly contested and brutal in tone.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in a race that has drawn heavy national attention as Democrats attempt to re-take the Senate.
Duckworth on Thursday criticized Kirk for his past history of embellishment to his military record, which she said he "lied about at least 10 different times."
"In fact he said he was shot at in Kandahar, he was shot at in Bosnia and he was shot at in Iraq," said Duckworth, who lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down in 2004. "I've been shot at. It's not the kind of thing you misremember."
The other statewide race is between incumbent Republican Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. Munger was appointed to office by Rauner in January 2015 after the death of Judy Baar Topinka a month earlier. Topinka had won re-election in November 2014, and Rauner sought to appoint Munger to fill Topinka's full, four-year term. But Democrats on a party-line vote passed a bill requiring a special election after two years.
Munger on Wednesday described Mendoza, who served in the Illinois House from 2001 to 2011, as faithful soldier of Madigan during her years in the House. She also said Mendoza regarded Madigan as her mentor.
"You know who she is," Mendoza said Thursday of Munger. "She's the self-proclaimed wingman of this governor and clearly his appointee beholden to him."
Mendoza took special umbrage at Munger's implying that she owed her political career to Madigan.
"The sexist notion that any one of us was put into a position of power -- like, say, being appointed to a statewide spot -- ...only through the power of men, you know that has no place in 2016," Mendoza said. "And it's something that's straight out of the Donald Trump playbook on women."
State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who emceed the Illinois State Fair Democrat Day rally, thanked the opposing party for providing extra motivation.
"Let me tell you something else we've been blessed with," Lang shouted from the podium. "We have the two best Democratic organizers ever out there helping us. Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner. These guys don't know what they've unleashed."
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