Carterville — Much of Illinois’s conservative hope was in the same place Saturday for the Williamson County Republican Women Lincoln Day Luncheon at John A. Logan College.
Speeches were given from 18 of Illinois’ Republican candidates from the top ticket races — Governor Bruce Rauner made an appearance as did his primary challenger, Jeanne Ives — as well as from down-ballot contests.
The tenor of the conversation was largely stock Republican talking points — fewer regulations, smaller government, lower taxes — but also delved into some particularly Illonois-centered themes.
Candidates spoke of House Speaker Michael Madigan so often it was as if he were in the room. Talks of breaking up the “Madigan machine” were frequent and were often met with cheers.
“I will never let our home get destroyed by Michael Madigan and his corrupt machine,” Rauner said during his surprise visit.
Rauner said he was “all in” for November’s election, and said though it’s been a tough three years, looking from the outside doesn’t quite do it justice.
“However bad you think government is, it’s worse,” he said.
Rauner was followed by his primary opponent and rhetorical sparring-mate Jeanne Ives. She was assertive in her disdain for Rauner’s record as governor.
“He won the crown and didn’t do the work,” she said in an interview after her speech.
She thrashed his dealings with Democrats in Springfield, particularly on a controversial piece of legislation last year that loosened regulations allowing state medical dollars to be used for abortions. She said reaching across the aisle on party issues this way was a sign of weakness.
“They don’t respect you if you capitulate to their values,” Ives said.
Ives predicted a Democratic win in November if she is not the Republican candidate. That said, she did admit she would cast another ballot for Rauner if that was the choice she had to make.
The room was unified in its need to support the Republican cause, but nationally, there has been a split in what this means.
Kathi Neubert of Herrin did not shy away from the controversy Donald Trump’s presidency has caused nor the schism it has created within the GOP. However, she said people seemed to hate him because of who he is not what he has done.
“It’s an emotional reaction,” she said.
There was a question about whether this rift has been felt locally. Twenty-two-year-old Brendan Atkisson said it hasn’t been as bad as one might think.
He said he doesn’t really “see as much infighting” as he might have thought. However, he was quick to say that the hard words between Rauner and Ives, even at Saturday’s event, did seem a bit like infighting.
In that race, Atkisson said he wasn’t decided.
Neubert said she registers as a Republican in primary elections. However, she said this isn’t always how she identifies personally.
“There really isn’t a party that represents me,” she said. She said she votes for the person in big elections.