By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

They were the speakers everyone in the room wanted to hear during Sunday’s Effingham County Republican Lincoln Day Luncheon.

But the two leading Republican candidates for governor in the March 20 Primary did not take the stage together in the Altamont Carriage Event Center.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke first and then left to continue his campaign tour through Southern Illinois over the weekend. Then State Rep. Jeanne Ives came to the microphone.

It was not a debate, but it had some very heated words.

Effingham County Republican Central Committee Chairman Rob Arnold asked the Republicans present for the fundraiser and political rally that featured other state and local candidates to show respect for both speakers. For the most part, the audience complied. There was some applause and some whispered acknowledgements to some of the candidates’ words.

Rauner offered a rousing campaign speech when he came to the mike. He started out by offering thanks to Effingham County Republicans.

“If every county in Illinois was as strong conservative and as strong Republican as Effingham; if every county was run as well as Effingham County, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now,” Rauner said.

The incumbent vowed his goal is to make the Republican Party the majority party in Illinois. He noted the Republicans picked up six seats against Mike Madigan’s Democrats two years ago. He wants to up that ante this fall.

“We knocked them out of the Super Majority in 2016. This year, I’m committed and all-in for picking up nine seats in the House of Representatives for Republicans. And when we do that, we will knock Mike Madigan out of office and he will no longer be Speaker,” Rauner said.

He talked about how being governor is a truly stressful job.

“When I started this job I was 6-8 and I had a full head of hair.”

Explaining why he is running again, Rauner said he is a business guy, not a politician.

“I’m doing this because I love the state of Illinois. I love the people of this state,” the governor said.

He recalled how his grandparents were dairy farmers. They taught him faith and family and how everyone has a moral duty to help each other.

His family warned him not to run for governor after he was first recruited a few years ago. His wife warned of getting a knife in the back every day and his son predicted his father would get mud thrown in his face. Then his teenage daughter pleaded for her father not to run for governor because he might go to jail.

His inspiration for running has been his longtime enemies: the crooked career politicians.

“They’re not working for you. They’re working for a corrupt political machine in Chicago. They’re driving our taxes through the roof and pushing jobs out of the state,” he said.

He cited the message of the Republican Party is simple compared to the Democrats: Freedom, opportunity, low taxes, more jobs, school choice plus quality and term limits.

“That’s a message that wins. Their message is Madigan isn’t all that bad and let’s raise the income tax and everything will be better. Come on! That’s not a message. That’s a losing position,” Rauner said. “We’re going to take it to them and beat them.”

He talked about how his background set him apart from other candidates.

“I’m the only governor in Illinois history who has never taken a nickel from a government union boss,” Rauner said. “I can’t be bought, bribed or intimidated. I’m in there fighting for you.”

He said the system cannot avoid corruption for negotiating a contract after a government union donates to politicians’ campaigns and doubles down with the rank and file helping out the politicians.

He believes term limits must be set. He promised to run a pledge campaign to have all General Assembly members promise to place a term limits question on the state ballot and also vote for someone other than Mike Madigan as Speaker of the House after 35 years. The Democrats will oppose it, but that can leave many of them vulnerable in the next election.

“No state has a guy as corrosive and as corrupt and as destructive as Mike Madigan. We’re going to hang every Democratic candidate with Mike Madigan around their neck. And we’re going to take them down. And we’re going to beat them,” Rauner vowed.

He said people, including Democrats, have told him to stick to his guns against Madigan. He told how an elderly woman in Springfield came up to him, and after grabbing his arm, said “Governor, you’re our last hope. Don’t give up.”

Jeanne Ives is a State Representative from Wheaton and a West Point graduate. She is considered the strongest opponent of Rauner and she went on the attack during her remarks.

She started by telling the story of a family preparing to move out of Illinois because they could not afford the high taxes.

“That’s the story that is happening time and time again. It’s kinda shameful. It’s a shameful thing to waste all the potential for Illinois all because craven politicians have not stood up to the ruling political class,” Ives said.

She regrets that fact even more because she helped elect Bruce Rauner in 2014.

“I believed him when he said he was going to be the conservative reform governor and take on the political ruling class. But very quickly, I became disappointed. Unfortunately, instead of fighting for us and standing up for us he capitulated to Mike Madigan.”

Then Ives asked the audience what should be done on March 20.

“So knowing Bruce Rauner betrayed our values and under him things will not change, what are you going to do about it?” Ives asked the audience of Republican supporters and elected officials. “He lied to us about everything.”

She noted how Rauner has distorted her record in the General Assembly. She recalled how she spoke against the 32 percent income tax increase.

“He doesn’t want to debate; he just wants to bash me,” Ives said.

She recalled how Illinois lawmaker Henry Hyde fought to ensure taxpayer money would never pay for abortions after the Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973. That prohibition against public funds for abortion stood as the standard on the Republican agenda in Illinois. Hyde is gone now, but Ives thanked the late statesman for his dedication against abortion.

“God bless Henry Hyde. God bless him. How awful now that we have a Republican governor, who is the first governor in the United States to ever put in, via legislation, taxpayer funding of abortion. And he does that in a state that is bankrupt, $250 billion in debt and still about $10 billion in unpaid bills. These are his priorities.”

Ives said this action will provide opportunities for Planned Parenthood to open new clinics in Illinois. This will allow for out-of-state women to have abortions performed through state money in Illinois. She said Mike Madigan, with Democratic control of the legislature for a decade, didn’t do that.

She said Rauner is unelectable in 2018 because too many people and factions don’t trust him. She believes she is building coalitions to win in the primary and the general election. She believes those coalitions can help her change the political landscape across Illinois, especially in Springfield.

“If you don’t have a leader who can take on the fight, then you don’t have a leader at all,” Ives said. “I’m not going to let someone like this guy pretend that he’s a Republican. This is our party. This is your choice. I’m giving you a choice. We can take back the state, but we can’t do it while someone is lying to us.”