Republicans join together for Democrat bashing

By Gus Bode

Annual pre-World Trotting Derby dinner unifies Republican Party

Question:What do you get when you put the leaders of the Illinois Republican Party into the SIUC Student Center ballroom?

Answer:A lot of Democrat bashing.


A party scared by scandal and torn apart by a tough March primary came together Friday for the annual pre-World Trotting Derby Dinner to encourage unity as the November election gains momentum. Republican candidates from top of the state to the bottom filed into the ballroom in which guests had gathered for a $30 plate dinner.

While it is still uncertain as to how state and local Republican candidates will fare in November, what was certain Friday night was that elephants ruled and donkeys weren’t welcome.

Kristine O’Rourke Cohn passed out hotel-size soap that read, “It’s about time we cleaned up the Secretary of State’s Office.” Cohn, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State, will face incumbent Jesse White in November. Kohn, currently Winnebago County Chairman, said people are tired of scandals and long lines and she will clean up the corruption and eliminate the wait at local Department of Motor Vehicle offices.

Republican candidate for Attorney General Joe Birkett bragged about his legal experience over Democratic opponent Lisa Madigan. He said his expertise in the legal field proves he is more suited for the attorney general’s office since Madigan had never even tried a case. He said his campaign was gaining momentum even without the lucrative campaign funds Madigan has secured with the help of her father, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

“We are in a dead heat against someone that has outspent us four to one,” Birkett said.

Of course, the self-praising and optimism came easy without any Democrats there to respond.

Gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan was on the defense about a CBS poll that showed him lagging behind opponent Rod Blagojevich by 14 percentage points. Ryan acknowledged that he was behind in the race but said internal polling suggested the margin between the candidates was not that substantial.


“We’re behind without a doubt, but I think we’re in striking distance,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the focus of his campaign from now until November is to talk about the issues, one of the most important being how to get the fiscal house together. Ryan said he did not believe voters had been alienated from the Republican Party by the license for bribes scandal that has scared Gov. George Ryan’s name, the sitting governor who shares the same name and party identification.

“People want change in Illinois, but the change they want is not a change in last name and a party,” Jim Ryan said. “People are smarter than that.”

Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood, who was stomped out by Ryan in the March primary, also made an appearance and joined hands with the party Friday night. Gov. Ryan was a no-show.

Reporter Molly Parker can be reached at [email protected]