Daily Egyptian

Rauner: Trump’s comments on Charlottesville ‘damage America’

Gov. Bruce Rauner rallied fellow Republicans Wednesday to “ignite a political revolution against the broken political system in Illinois” that in the 2018 election could oust the “corrupt politicians” in power.

That was part of his speech at the Governor’s Day rally at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. And while there was no mention from officials on that stage of Republican President Donald Trump, Rauner told reporters just before the speeches started that he strongly disagrees with Trump’s blaming both sides for violence that resulted in a death at a recent rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I vehemently disagree with the president’s comments about Charlottesville,” Rauner said. “We must stand together against hatred and bigotry and violence.”

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Asked if Trump’s comments could hurt the Republican brand, Rauner said, “What I care about is the comments damage America. We are all Americans. It doesn’t matter what party.”

Trump has faced criticism, including from other Republicans, for saying there’s “blame on both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville. A 32-year-old woman was killed when a vehicle barreled through a street filled with counter-protesters Saturday.

Governor’s Day events began with a joint meeting at the Wyndham City Center of the party’s central committee and county chairmen. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, brought up Charlottesville in his comments there. He said there is no place in the GOP for racism or white supremacists.

Davis noted that he was among Republican congressman at a baseball practice in June when a man started shooting, injuring people including U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana. The shooter was killed, and it was later learned he was a supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in last year’s Democratic primary for president.

“The maniac who shot at me .. he doesn’t deserve a place in the Democrat Party,” Davis said. “And the people we saw kill an innocent human being, Heather Heyer, this weekend (in Charlottesville) does not deserve a place in the Republican Party.”

Davis later told reporters he can’t speak for the president.

“I don’t blame the president for what happened in Charlottesville (any) more than I blame Bernie Sanders for what happened to us (on the baseball field) because one of his supporters and volunteers decided he didn’t like our policy stances,” Davis said. But he added, “I hope the president clarifies his remarks once again and I hope the president can be a voice of calm and a voice of reason at a time where we can come together and stop the hate and the vitriol that we see in the American political climate today.”

Governor’s Day was designed to rally the GOP, just as Thursday is Democrat Day — though the Democratic Party of Illinois is not having a fairgrounds rally, instead having its main event, including speeches from governor candidates and other officials, at a chairmen’s association brunch at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Party officials said the brunch has become a tradition, and fairgrounds speeches often cover the same ground.

That didn’t stop Republicans from criticizing the Democrats. Davis said at the fair that with his own party’s ups and downs, its fair rally never was canceled.

In his fairgrounds speech, Rauner, with a giant American flag and some of the hundreds of party faithful on hand as a backdrop, took on Democrats — especially his main political target, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

“It’s going to be a brutal battle,” Rauner said. “You guys know, this corrupt political class in Illinois, they’ve been entrenched for years and years. And they got their special interest groups, they got their patronage workers, they got their buddies who make money from your hard-earned tax dollars. And they don’t want to give up their power.”

As he has before, Rauner attacked Madigan’s law business, which helps clients seek lower tax assessments for buildings.

“It just makes him and his cronies rich,” Rauner said, and is a “conflict of interest.”

Madigan has said that he follows strict rules to avoid conflicts between his private job and his role in state government. He is also chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Rauner said the GOP would expose Democratic lawmakers across the state who may criticize Madigan, but vote to keep him as speaker.

“We are going to make sure the people of Illinois know that their Democrat caucus members work for Madigan,” and not their constituents, Rauner said, and in that way, “We’re going to win a historic victory.”

“The Revolutionary War, you know what got that started — fighting against taxes from a tyrannical government,” Rauner said. “We are the party of limited government and individual liberty, personal responsibility and low taxes. That’s what built America, and that’s why we’re going to be the majority party again.”

Also speaking at both events Wednesday was Erika Harold of Urbana, a lawyer and the 2003 Miss America who announced this week she is running as the GOP candidate for attorney general.

“First and foremost, I will be independent,” Harold told the fairgrounds crowd. “I will also work to hold both parties accountable, because corruption is not about one party or the other party.”

She also said that the incumbent Democrat, Lisa Madigan, has sometimes turned a “blind eye” to public corruption. She said Madigan, who is daughter of the House speaker, had run saying she would fight public corruption, but “you and I both know that has not happened.”

Ann Spillane, chief of staff to Lisa Madigan, said in an after-work call that Madigan works with county and federal prosecutors, and also created a public integrity unit and has “used it aggressively to go after corruption.”

Unlike last year, there were not many demonstrators outside the director’s lawn to greet Rauner — who showed up as usual on his motorcycle. But several women dressed in red cloaks and white bonnets, as characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, a fiction book about a future where only certain women are designated child-bearers. Annie Williams, 61, of Hillside said they were protesting Rauner’s promised veto of House Bill 40, a bill designed to protect legal abortion in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns that right nationally; and to allow women on Medicaid to get abortions.

“He said during his campaign that he would protect access to women no matter what their income, and he’s changed his mind,” Williams said. “We want him to honor his promise.”

Rauner told reporters: “Let me be clear. I personally strongly support women’s reproductive rights. I always have and I always will.”

Jerry Bromley, 66, of Schaumburg, said he was kept outside the event because he had a sign, but he went to the protest area to hold up that sign urging Rauner to veto Senate Bill 31, known as the Trust Act, which would provide increased legal protection to immigrants.

“Illinois victim families say no sanctuary state,” the sign said.

Bromley said he’s lost three family members combined in two accidents apparently involving people who were illegally in the country and who he believes returned to Mexico. One accident killed his 4-year-old sister and his aunt in 1947. The other accident, killing his wife’s cousin, was in 2011.

“I’ve been a Rauner guy totally, but if he does not veto this bill, I’m on the serious fence,” Bromley said.

On the director’s lawn, there was just a smattering of red “Make America Great Again” hats that were omnipresent during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

One of the hats was worn by Joyce Korobey of Millstadt, who has a home-based jewelry business and said, “I love the president.”

She also said she was “on the fence with the governor” because of the Trust Act being considered by Rauner.

“I’m totally against sanctuary anything,” she said.

Asked about Charlottesville, she said, “I didn’t hear the news story, but I back my president 500 thousand percent. He’s not a racist. He’s not a bigot. He’s not a xenophobe. He is God’s chosen man for this time.”

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(c)2017 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

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