JOLIET – The two top Democrats in the Illinois Legislature urged on Friday fellow party members in Will County to turn out the vote in November while voicing concerns about the money being spent by Gov. Bruce Rauner in the election.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were the keynote speakers at Friday night's Will County Democratic Central Committee's Legislative Leaders Dinner.
Madigan described an "epic struggle" in state government, and both he and Cullerton applauded Democratic legislative leaders for blocking the governor's self-described turnaround agenda.
The appearance of both Madigan and Cullerton at the dinner was considered a coup for the county Democratic Party.
"I want you to look at all the Democrats in this room," Will County Democratic Party Chairman Scott Pyles told the crowd. "Will County is on the map. We're on the move."
They legislative leaders were joined by Susana Mendoza, the party's candidate for Democratic comptroller, who spoke about her Bolingbrook roots.
All three of them voiced concerns about the amount of money Rauner was pouring into the campaign to elect Republicans in November.
"The question is whether Bruce Rauner can buy this election by outspending the rest of Illinois," Cullerton told the crowd. "We will be outspent in this election."
Madigan said Rauner and "three or four of his friends" have put up $12 million to support Republicans running for seats in the House.
Both legislative leaders sounded familiar themes, saying Democrats represented working people as the governor pushed an agenda that they said would erode wages.
"It's been an epic struggle, a tough struggle," Madigan said. "And, believe me the Democrats in the Illinois Legislature have stood strong, and they will continue to stand strong for working people in Illinois."
Asked after the dinner whether his joint appearance with Cullerton signalled the importance of Will County to the party, Madigan said, "It's a growing Democratic area."
Cullerton said he was there in part to support state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, who is in a tough campaign against Republican Michelle Smith, the president of the Plainfield School District 202 board of education.
"You can tell from the turnout that there's a lot of support from Democrats here," Cullerton said. "I'm hoping to help out in any way I can."
Mendoza called upon her own Will County roots in telling the crowd she was "flattered" by $5 million recently contributed by two billionaires to her opponent, Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican appointed by Rauner.
"I went to Bolingbrook High School, and I'm a Raider," Mendoza said. "I know a thing or two about winning."
Mendoza, now the city clerk in Chicago, was an All-State soccer player at Bolingbrook High School.
Munger has her own local connections as a Joliet native who graduated from Joliet West High School. She now lives in Lincolnshire.
Democrats paid $70 a plate for the dinner at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 176 Hall in Joliet.