Pritzker energizes crowd at Dems 'Salute to Labor' picnic

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J.B. Pritzker, Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, speaks during Monday's Salute to Labor Picnic hosted by the Rock Island County Democrats at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds in East Moline.

EAST MOLINE — Illinois Democrats showed a united front Monday at the Rock Island County Democrats’ 51st annual "Salute to Labor" picnic, warning Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner of the blue wave they say is about to sweep the state in the Nov. 6 general election. 

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Laurie Figley, of Rock Island, holds her grandson, Benjamin Galvin, 2, of Moline, as she applauds during Salute to Labor Picnic: 51st Annual "Salute to Labor Chicken Fry" hosted by the Rock Island County Democrats on Monday at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds in East Moline.

Despite downpours that forced an eleventh-hour move from the picnic's traditional location of Illiniwek Park to the Rock Island County Fairgrounds, event organizers estimated more than 1,500 people attended the rally.

The event kicked off with Knox County Democratic party chair Pam Davidson leading the crowd in a rousing sing-along rendition of "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," substituting "nobody" with the name of Rauner.

For the first time in several years, every statewide candidate was present: gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and his running mate Juliana Stratton; Kwame Raoul, candidate for attorney general; Secretary of State Jesse White; Treasurer Michael Frerichs; and Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Also in attendance was U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline; U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa City, Iowa; state Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island; Gregg Johnson, candidate for state Senate in the 36th District; Joan Padilla, candidate for state representative in the 71st District; and Rock Island County clerk Karen Kinney.

Rock Island County Democrats 51st Annual Salute to Labor Chicken Fry

J.B. Pritzker, Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, speaks with guests during Salute to Labor Picnic: 51st Annual "Salute to Labor Chicken Fry" hosted by the Rock Island County Democrats Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds in East Moline.

"This is the most powerful statewide ticket this state has ever seen, led by Secretary of State Jesse White," said Pritzker, who received a standing ovation as he took the stage. "This campaign has been about kitchen-table issues; the issues that are most important to working families all across the state of Illinois. We’ve had stagnant wages across the state. We are in the bottom third of job creation in the entire nation — all of that under Bruce Rauner.

"It was happening before Bruce Rauner, but he drove it right off a cliff," Pritzker said, as the crowd booed. "We’ve got work to do to raise wages in this state, but the best way you can do it is to get rid of the guy who wants to lower wages, and that’s Bruce Rauner."

Pritzker appealed to the union presence in the room, accusing Rauner of having a hidden agenda to destroy labor unions, lower wages and lower workplace safety.

"(Rauner) thinks if we have low-wage workers in the state, low-wage companies will move to the state and create jobs," Pritzker said. "I don’t think you want a governor who wants to attract low-wage paying companies to the state of Illinois.

"You want a governor who wakes up everyday thinking about how to raise wages in this state; to preserve our labor unions and collective bargaining rights. If we don’t preserve our labor unions while we’re creating jobs, we are doing it wrong.

"We've got a fight ahead of us. Are you ready for the fight?" Pritzker said, as the crowd burst into a roar and another standing ovation. 

Rock Island County Democrats 51st Annual Salute to Labor Chicken Fry

J.B. Pritzker, Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, speaks with guests during Salute to Labor Picnic: 51st Annual "Salute to Labor Chicken Fry" hosted by the Rock Island County Democrats Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds in East Moline.

Raoul thanked organized labor for its contribution to negotiating health benefits that played a part in saving his life when he fought prostate cancer three years ago. 

"Because of those healthcare benefits, negotiated by organized labor, I am here before you as a survivor ready to fight for all of those rights," Raoul said. 

Rock Island County Democrats 51st Annual Salute to Labor Chicken Fry

Kwame Raoul, candidate for attorney general, speaks during the Salute to Labor Picnic: 51st Annual "Salute to Labor Chicken Fry" hosted by the Rock Island County Democrats Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds in East Moline.

Bustos rallied the crowd, reminding them only 63 days remain until the Nov. 6 election.

"I believe when we wake up on day 64, the Democrats will have taken over the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives," Bustos said. "Then we will focus again in Washington, on the people. As opposed to the Republicans, who are focused on being a party of the rich by the powerful and for the lobbyists. We are saying enough is enough."

Bustos said Illinois would have four opportunities to pick up seats in the House, and asked everyone present to help with campaign efforts. 

Jenni Swanson, a candidate for Rock Island City Council, Fourth Ward, said there were several reasons why she decided to run for office. 

"I want to continue to move Rock Island forward," Swanson said. "In Rock Island County, 55 percent of the population is female. I feel like (women) don't have a voice on the council, and I want to be that voice."

"There is a lot on the line," Rock Island resident Gregory Mayor, 71, said. "Jobs, wages, union jobs, Social Security, and regaining our place in the world that has been lost under this (presidential) administration."

Mayor said if Rauner is re-elected, the "state will go farther into debt and we'll have more problems. (Rauner) has got it out for the teachers; he's got it out for all unions. He's not being governor of the people; he is being governor of the few."

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