Democrats converged on the fairgrounds on Wednesday for Governor's
Day, and Republicans followed on Thursday for Republican Day. Both
days focused on getting the crowds geared up for the run for
governor and other statewide races.
But the talk among downstate lawmakers focused on hotly contested
races in their areas and how hard they are working to get the word
out in their districts.
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said southern Illinois residents
should expect to see a lot of campaigning in his district before
Election Day. Although Forby himself is not up for re-election, his
Democratic House counterpart, Rep. John Bradley of Marion, is facing a
challenger in independent candidate Jason Rice.
"The fair time is the time usually to kick off the race, so after
this you're really going to see people out in the street
campaigning," Forby said. "Campaigns are going to really kick off,
and everybody's here to get everybody fired up so they're ready to
Democrats conceded that this election is going to be tough for
members of their party, as the all-important independent voters seem
to be moving away from Democrats. In addition to national policy
concerns, Illinois Democrats are struggling to avoid being connected
to former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of a
felony this week in his federal corruption trial.
Bradley said Democrats can avoid a bad outcome on Election Day if
they can stay on message.
"I think we need to remind people why we're Democrats and why the
Democratic Party has been a majority party," Bradley said. "The
interests that we represent, which are working men and women and
children and all the things we stand for. And I think sometimes as a
party we've lost our identity, but it's time to regain that and
remind people of it."
As the majority party in Springfield and Washington, D.C., Democrats
are also receiving the brunt of the anger against incumbents that is
sweeping the nation.
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Alternatively, downstate Republicans think this year will be their
year. Illinois Republicans view this election as their comeback
after years of being associated with former Republican Gov. George
Ryan's federal corruption conviction and subsequent imprisonment.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Carbondale, said he agrees that the
political winds seem to moving in favor of the GOP. The 15-year
House member is facing challenges from Democrat Brent Schorfheide
and Green Party candidate Charlie Howe.
"What is different is the frustration that the general public, those
independents out there are feeling," Bost said. "And the Republicans
are coming home. Republicans were upset about the George Ryan years
and they're coming home."
Voters will determine the validity of lawmakers' predictions on Nov.
2, when they head to the polls.
Statehouse News; By JENNIFER WESSNER]