SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn is tossing aside the decades-old tradition of Democrats throwing a political rally at the Illinois State Fair, but he denies that’s because Democrats are in disarray, he got booed heavily last year or that he’s facing a tough primary challenger.
No, the Democratic governor says that Wednesday’s Governor’s Day at the state fairgrounds will not be the place for the usual political speeches, sign waving and blasting of Republicans. It will be filled with music and entertainment instead. The Democrats, Quinn said, will have enough time to air out their political speeches during the annual breakfast meeting Wednesday, a separate event sponsored by Democratic county chairmen.
“We have spirited conversation and dialogue at the county chairman’s breakfast in the morning,” Quinn said. “And as years have gone on, it has gone longer and longer. There’s lots of folks who want to say things and make speeches, and I think that’s healthy. I plan to make a little talk there.
“But I think, when you come over to the fair, it’s a good time to have family and music and have things for kids,” said Quinn, explaining his no-rally decision after snipping the ribbon to open the fair officially on Friday. “Folks will have had plenty of speech-making earlier in the morning.”
Last year’s rally turned into a boo-fest. Quinn could barely be heard over the din of a crowd of unionized state workers letting him have it because they had not settled their contract. The governor ended up cutting his remarks short. On Friday, he brushed aside questions centered on whether last year’s embarrassment led to this year’s decision.
The governor chose to talk about how the House gave him a “standing boo-vation” for three minutes many years ago when he championed a change in law that changed the policy in which state lawmakers used to get their full salary on their first day in office. He didn’t mention the boos he received from the crowds lining streets for the Thursday night’s pre-fair parade.
This year, there is a union contract in place, but there are plenty of reasons Democrats might want to duck the public rally, the boo-birds and the barbs—from each other.
Quinn is getting a strong challenge from Bill Daley, the former chief of staff of President Barack Obama and the son and brother of Chicago mayors. Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan — the two Chicago Democrats who run the Capitol around Quinn --- are suing him in court. He’s stopped the paychecks of all 177 lawmakers, saying they failed to rein in the unwieldy and growing costs of pensions. And the Madigan-Cullerton lawsuit says they want their money — with interest.
Democrat Days at the fair have not always been the smoothest for the party. One of the great moments of dissension was when Democrat Rod Blagojevich, while running for governor, took a shot at one of Madigan’s pork-barrel project. And Madigan famously said that he had no intention of bringing up Blagojevich’s “indiscretions,” a word the speaker mentioned without elaboration, causing a fury of its own.
Quinn’s spokeswoman did little to tamp down the flap Quinn has created by canceling the rally.
"Some may wish that it's a day for criticizing our governor because they want his job, but it's not, it's Governor's Day," said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.
Anderson said the office felt it was "redundant" to have speeches at the fair in the afternoon, since Democratic leaders also give remarks in the morning during the annual breakfast meeting hosted by the state's Democratic county chairmen.
Anderson said all of Illinois statewide officials were invited by Quinn for an afternoon that will include live music and performances.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun