Statehouse Insider: Political days at the fair ain’t what they used to be

It didn’t seem much like an election year during the political rallies at the Illinois State Fair last week.

At least it didn’t feel that way based on the number of people who showed up for them.

The Republicans on Governor’s Day had an adequate crowd, but that’s about the best you can say for it. There was plenty of open space on the Director’s Lawn where the rallies are held, plus finding a seat wasn’t a problem. In fact, organizers had trouble convincing people to fill up the seats in front of the speaker’s platform. Those seats were in the hot sun, but they were also the ones that would show up on TV coverage of the event.

Remember, the Republicans are supposed to be energized this year because BRUCE RAUNER is the governor and he’s promised to spend a boatload of money getting Republicans elected to the legislature. But if anything, the GOP crowd looked smaller this year than last, which was Rauner’s first year in office.

Anemic as the Republican crowd was, it was huge compared to the Democrats. They were able to fit their people under a tent on the grounds. It was a cozy gathering.

The Democrats’ attendance might have suffered from the really large breakfast gathering they hold before the fair rally. That thing was a living example of the word interminable. Anyone who sat through that was probably too numb to go to the fair to hear the same speeches again.

Maybe this was a one-year aberration. Or maybe this was a case where people finally realized there are way better things to do at the fair than sit in a steam bath listening to political speeches.

Maybe fair organizers can find some other groups to recognize on those days rather than politicians.

Give it a cheer 

As the Republican rally was winding down, Rauner tried to get the crowd to chant “term limits now,” since getting a term limits amendment on the ballot is an issue that’s going to be pushed by Republicans this year.

It was a heroic, but ultimately failed, effort. The crowd just didn’t much get into it. Maybe the heat finally got to them. Or maybe they knew that term limits now actually means 2018 before it will be on any ballot.

Term limits poster boy 

There was a certain irony in Rauner touting term limits as much as he did during the Governor’s Day rally at the fair.

Because among those in the crowd was U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS of Collinsville, whose platform when he was first elected included a pledge to serve no more than 12 years in Congress. He was first elected in 1996. He’s running agains this year.

Epic battle

“This is an epic battle we’re going through in Springfield, and I’m not going to lose it.” House Republican Leader JIM DURKIN of Western Springs as the state heads into a pivotal election season.

Slip of the tongue

 “Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your patronage, uh, your patriotism.” Rauner to Republican Party leaders, almost accusing them of being Democrats.

Destiny’s child

“I don’t want my daughter to be president. I want her to have a happy life.” Democratic state Treasurer MIKE FRERICHS to Democratic Party officials.

Lather then rinse

“There is no amount of shampoo or deodorant that can help clean up the mess she and Gov. Rauner have created.” Democratic comptroller candidate SUSANA MENDOZA on her opponent, Comptroller LESLIE MUNGER. Munger says her qualifications include managing brands of deodorant and shampoo for Unilever Helene Curtis.

Rain, man 

“I’m good. I’m not that good. Controllin’ Mother Nature is a little bit of a challenge.” Rauner when asked how the fair could avoid a repeat of the torrential rains that flooded parts of the fairgrounds the first day of the fair.

— Contact Doug Finke:, 788-1527,

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