It was standing room only Sunday at Honest Abe’s Grill and Tap in Morris as local Republicans gathered, awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s planned appearance at the restaurant. On the seventh day of a planned nine-day tour of the state, Rauner stopped in Morris after a visit in Gibson City.
The crowd was largely Republican Party members, with both local candidates and those running for statewide office.
“I’m running against the mayor of Chicago,” Darlene Senger, the Republican candidate for Illinois Comptroller, said, a crack at Democratic incumbent Susana Mendoza, who has been on several short lists of possible contenders to replace Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Jim Dodge, candidate for state treasurer was also present, as was Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressman from Channahon representing the 16th Congressional District.
Dena Fasano of Morris said she was there to support the governor.
“He’s a strong Republican,” she said.
About 2 p.m. the blue campaign bus pulled into the parking lot. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti entered first with high-fives, followed by Rauner. For the next 15 to 20 minutes, the group made its way around the restaurant, stopping for photos and selfies as fans jockeyed for position to shake the governor’s hands.
He stopped in front of the big screen TV showing the Bears beating the Buffalo Bills. After an introduction by Kinzinger and Sanguinetti, the governor spoke.
“Our party, our values are the majority party in America, and we’re gonna be the majority party in the state of Illinois,” he said.
He also gave a “shout out” to Grundy County State’s Attorney, and Republican candidate for secretary of state of Illinois, Jason Helland.
“I don’t know a harder working guy,” Rauner said.
Rauner dismissed the polls, which show he has an uphill fight against Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Some polls show Pritzker having as much as a 22-point lead over the governor going into the election, and a Victory Research poll released Sunday showed Pritzker with a 16-point lead with likely voters.
“Nobody thought we could win four years ago,” Rauner said. “We won 101 out of 102 counties.”
Rauner won Grundy County by almost 13 points and Will County by more than 15 points.
“The polls are baloney. These polls don’t mean anything. The only poll that matters is on Election Day,” Rauner said.
Rauner also expressed optimism that the Republican Party will pick up seats in the Illinois House of Representatives.
“We’re going to pick up nine seats in the House and knock Mike Madigan out,” Rauner said. “He’s not going to be speaker of the house anymore.”
Discussing his opponent, Rauner said Pritzker could be indicted in the next few months because of a tax scheme. The audience jeered at the mention of Pritzker, with one woman in the crowd shouting “screw him,” and a man called him the “Pillsbury Doughboy.” Rauner said Pritzker could join his predecessors as an Illinois governor going to jail.
“And you know what ‘J.B.’ stands for then, Jail Bird,” Rauner said.
As the event wrapped up and the tour bus prepared to depart for its next stop, Rauner lead the crowd in a chant of “Four more years.”