Supporters of a potential presidential bid by Hillary Rodham Clinton, including several prominent Illinois Democrats, attended a pair of downtown fundraisers Thursday, giving cash to a political action committee aimed at providing the Illinois native and former secretary of state help for a 2016 campaign.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among those attending a $1,000-a-person fundraiser at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush steakhouse, but he appeared more immediately concerned about getting out quickly to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife, Amy Rule.
“I don’t need you for advice,” Emanuel told a reporter when asked why he was going to a fundraiser on his anniversary. “I’ve got 20 years of marriage, and I’m going to take her to dinner.”
Attendees, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton, were told by organizers that more than $100,000 had been raised by the Ready for Hillary super PAC, said a source who was at the restaurant but asked not to be identified.
Later, about 300 people gathered for a fundraiser at John Barleycorn in River North, where the price of admission was a symbolic $20.16 per person.
Officials for the Ready for Hillary group said fundraising nationally for the super PAC was more than $6 million as Clinton, who was born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge, deliberates on a presidential bid.
The 66-year-old Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” is scheduled for release Tuesday. CBS News obtained a copy and reported that Clinton writes, “Will I run for president in 2016? The answer is, I haven’t decided yet.”
Durbin, who was an early supporter of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s successful 2008 Democratic primary run against Clinton, called her “the strongest standard bearer for our party.”
“I want her to know that a lot of us are ready to commit,” Durbin said. “I haven’t spoken to her. I’m just hoping all of these events will convince her, when the time’s right, to go ahead and announce to run, but it’s ultimately going to be her personal decision.”
The events were notable for the list of Democratic politicians who attended, representing a significant early endorsement for a potential candidacy. Among those on hand were Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly and Bill Foster.
Preckwinkle recalled she was just elected 4th Ward alderman in 1991 when she first met Clinton, who was then First Lady and her husband, Bill, who was running characteristically late. While waiting for the president, Clinton spoke to a small group of elected officials.
“She gave one of the more thoughtful, persuasive speeches I have ever heard, and when Bill came much later, his speech was not nearly as thoughtful or as persuasive or as organized,” Preckwinkle said. “Everybody acknowledges that Bill Clinton is a master politician and a wonderful speaker, and let me tell you Hillary is better.
“I am proud to be supporting her for president two years (out) and I hope we will all be proud to elect the first woman from Illinois president of the United States.”
The events marked the beginning of a three-week period of Clintonmania in Chicago, including a visit next week by the former secretary of state and a week later by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
On Tuesday, she’ll be at McCormick Place to deliver the keynote speech at United Fresh 2014, the convention of the United Fresh Produce Association. The next day, she will take part in a Chicago Ideas Week special event in the Loop, discussing her book and taking part in an question-and-answer session with Emanuel, who was a senior adviser in the Clinton White House.
On June 20, the former president will be in town for a River North fundraiser for Emanuel’s mayoral campaign.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun