HAMPTON — Bill Daley's speech lasted only a minute, and while he acknowledged his primary with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn would be "interesting," he said the annual Salute to Labor picnic here on Monday was a place to just say thanks to organized labor.
Pat Quinn had other ideas.
In a feisty speech, the governor called the primary a "battle for the soul of the Democratic Party," and he said he's fighting to create jobs for average Illinoisans to improve an economy he said was driven into a ditch by bankers.
"A lot of runaway bankers ran our economy into the ground several years ago, and our job is to take it out of the ditch and move it forward," Quinn said at the picnic, where he and Daley shared a stage. Quinn was the last speaker.
The banker reference is one the governor has used before to talk about Daley, a former banker and U.S. Commerce Secretary.
For his part, Daley, who also is a former chief of staff for President Barack Obama, didn't engage on the stage. But he said afterward the "snide attacks" were just a way to make people forget the state's high unemployment rate.
"That's just the sort of usual rhetoric to try to divert the attention of people from a record. And he's got a record, and that record is Blagojevich/Quinn, and now his own, of the second highest unemployment in the nation," Daley said.
The link with the now-imprisoned Rod Blagojevich is one Daley has not shied away from making when talking about Quinn, who was the lieutenant governor when Blagojevich was in office.
Both Daley and Quinn had plenty of opportunity to mix with Democrats at the picnic. Daley was there early before it came time for the program. Afterward, Quinn was talking individually with people after the program ended.
The Quad-Cities is familiar ground for Quinn, and it showed during his remarks. He name-checked practically every elected official in the county, and he also listed a number of economic development projects that he's worked on, including Western Illinois University, the Thomson prison and area road projects.
Quinn also has devoted $45 million for a passenger rail link between the Quad-Cities and Chicago that is expected to open in 2015.
The Rock Island County Democratic Chairman Doug House is a Quinn supporter, and he was effusive in his praise while introducing the governor.
House said county Democrats had supported Quinn and "would continue to support him as one of the very best elected officials that the state of Illinois has ever had."
Nevertheless, at least some in the audience said they were keeping an open mind. Carl Daggett, of East Moline, said he hadn't made up his mind. "I want to know what plan they've got to get us out of debt," he said.
Quinn and Daley have butted heads on the state's pension crisis. But jobs and the economy remained the main focus on this Labor Day.
Quinn said the state has created more jobs than most Midwest states, but Daley pointed to Iowa's lower jobless rate as a sign the state is falling behind.
"Unless the governor and his supporters believe this is OK, I don't see a game plan to change it," Daley said.
The governor has proposed raising the state's minimum wage to $10 per hour (from $8.25), and he told reporters at the picnic that he would make it a priority.
"I'm going to fight with every fiber of my being to make that possible," he said.
Daley said he supports an increase, too, but called it a partial measure. "That's going to give some temporary relief to people, but it's no lever on the price increases that continue," he said in an interview before the event.
Other speakers at the event included U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
There also was a lineup of elected officials at the Statehouse and courthouse level.
Also on the stage was state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who is running for state treasurer.
Bustos, who is facing a challenge from former Rep. Bobby Schilling, who she ousted last year, said she would continue working for organized labor and the middle class.
But she warned that Democrats need to turn out in the midterm election, which they did not in 2010, when Republicans swept to the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. "We cannot stay home in 2014, like we did in 2010," she said.