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Lincoln Day Dinner brings in huge crowd

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[February 21, 2014]  Wednesday evening, the ballroom of the Lincoln Elks Lodge was filled to capacity as the Logan County Republicans hosted their Lincoln Day Dinner.

The room, which has a capacity of over 200, was filled, and those left standing along the walls were invited to participate in the dinner by using the restaurant dining room.

The invocation was delivered by Logan County State's Attorney Jonathan Wright, and state Rep. Rich Brauer led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The primary election on March 18 hosts a number of contests for the Republican Party. Candidates were given the opportunity to make a brief statement during the dinner.

This year the dinner included several guest speakers in the Republican race for governor, which has four candidates. In addition, Logan County has a contested race for the Republican nomination for Logan County sheriff. Incumbent Steve Nichols and candidate Michael Geriets were each given a few minutes of floor time as well.

The group was pleasantly surprised when U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock arrived in town, just moments before the dinner began. At the beginning of the program, he was asked to stand up and say a few words to get the show started.

Dave Bender, chairman of the Logan County GOP, served as the emcee for the evening. He got the group off to a good start when he advised them that they were not actually attending the Lincoln Day Dinner, but rather one of many retirement parties to come for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Schock spoke early in the evening. He talked about the House of Representatives in Washington and the need to fill the seats with Republicans. He said the House was the Republicans' first line of defense against Barack Obama, and it is the Republican vote and representation that will keep Nancy Pelosi out of the majority seat.

"What we stand for in the Republican Party is as strong as ever," Schock said.

He also commented that there would be no bigger blow to the president than to remove his best friend, Dick Durbin, from the U.S. Senate seat.

Bender took the opportunity to recognize the many Republicans in the room who already hold offices at the county and city level. He also expressed appreciation for the service of retiring Logan County Board member Terry Carlton.

During the course of the evening, Bender also acknowledged the primary sponsors of the night's events: local attorney Jim Grimaldi and Jim Drew of the Logan County Farm Bureau. He thanked Guzzardo's for a wonderfully prepared meal and took a moment to help promote the 22-inch miniature Lincoln statues that are currently being sold by the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society.

Guest speakers of the night started with state Sen. Bill Brady as the first candidate listed on the ballot for the gubernatorial nomination.

Bill Brady

Brady opened by reminding guests he has an investment in the local community. He and his wife are owners of Brady Realtors in Lincoln. Brady mentioned that earlier in the evening they had been in attendance at a ribbon-cut for their new office location in the city.

He said he was running again for governor because he believes it is the right thing for him to do. He said he'd been told by Jeb Bush of Florida that sometimes you have to lose the first time so you can run again and win.

In stating his positions on issues, Brady said he believes the state pension system needs reform, and he promised not to extend the temporary state tax increases, saying they didn't work in paying down the debt. He promised, "The Brady-Rodriguez administration will cut your taxes."

He went on to speak about education reform, the elimination of the State Board of Education and enhancing vocation education programs.

Kirk Dillard

Dillard also shared early in his speech his local connection to Logan County. Dillard has family ties to former Illinois Gov. Richard J. Oglesby. Dillard was married at the historic chapel in Elkhart Cemetery and told the group he may one day be buried in Elkhart, though he hopes that is a long time away.

He told the group the state is overtaxed and over-regulated, and this needs to change in order to create jobs.

Dillard also talked about his running mate, Jill Tracy. Tracy's mother-in-law started a business known as Dot Foods. The business began in the back of her family station wagon and today employs over 4,000 people.

In saying he believes the state is overtaxed, one tax that Dillard wants to do away with is the state sales tax on gasoline. He said Tracy will be known as the "repealer," who will work to repeal state regulations that hinder local businesses, starting with the agricultural industry.

He reminded the audience that he served under Gov. Jim Edgar, that during the Edgar administration the state credit rating went up instead of down, and that the administration practiced clean accounting, paid their bills promptly and left office with the state in a cash surplus.

He said that both former Govs. Edgar and Thompson have said he is the only Republican candidate who can win.

Dan Rutherford

Bender mentioned as he introduced Rutherford that the candidate had been in Logan County several times in the last year, and Rutherford reaffirmed that as he opened his speech.

"I have never seen Illinois politics as much of a blood sport in my 22 years of office. I am standing tough as your nominee for governor," Rutherford said.

Rutherford reminded the group that when he ran for treasurer, up to that time only three Republicans had ever been elected. He reminded the group he was a central Illinois guy who ran in a race he was never supposed to win. He said in that race he ran against a Chicago Democrat, an African-American female with an Irish last name, and won.

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He said he was not going to be shy about telling the truth. He told the group that he did not want the income tax increase to stay, but he would not say he would abolish it.

"If you let me be your governor in January 2015, I may have to have some kind of revenue on the table. I don't want it to be there, but I may have to. But I will not sign any revenue without a comprehensive package that will deal with the long-term financial resolution of our state," Rutherford said.

He promised the group that he would be in Logan County as their governor. He said he would support the candidates, attend their dinners and be a part of their community.

Bruce Rauner

Rauner was not present Wednesday night, but his running mate, Evelyn Sanguinetti, attended. She spoke briefly, representing Rauner and herself.

Sanguinetti is a member of the Wheaton City Council. She was born in Florida of immigrant parents. She said her story was not typical, but certainly very American. Her mother was from Cuba, her father from Africa. She said for her parents, America was the hope for a better way. Her mother was only 15 when Sanguinetti was born. Her parents lived in poverty, and she began her school career with the failure of her first-grade year. However, she had opportunities to advance and worked her way into her career as a lawyer and subsequently into politics.

She said that in her role with the city of Wheaton, her stance was to give the communities what they need  good roads, police protection and more  then step aside and not be too much of a government.

She said she knows that Illinois wants the same things Bruce Rauner wants: good education and opportunity for its citizens. She reminded the group Rauner is not a career politician, but he has worked for education reform and has touched the lives of many urban schoolchildren.

When Sanguinetti finished, Binder told the group that two local candidates would speak five minutes each to conclude the evening's events.

The candidates are running for the nomination for Logan County sheriff. There are no Democratic candidates running in this race.

The first to speak was candidate Michael Geriets.

Michael Geriets

Geriets is currently the deputy chief of police for the city of Lincoln. He lives in Atlanta and has four children.

Geriets began by acknowledging Chief of Police Ken Greenslate and thanking him for the support he has given in Geriets' campaign for the nomination.

Geriets spoke about his 25-year career with law enforcement, the various trainings he has attended as an officer and how that will benefit the citizens of Logan County if he is elected as sheriff.

Geriets also talked about the ongoing work he is involved in, in coordinating training for local schools, from elementary through the colleges, to develop a critical response program.

Geriets is the vice president of the Logan County Local Emergency Planning Committee and has worked with all first responders in the county in developing emergency tactics and responses.

He closed with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so to the very end." Geriets finished by saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is my plan: to do the very best I can for the citizens of Logan County to the very end."

Steven Nichols

Steven Nichols began by thanking his wife and family for the support they have given him in his term as sheriff and in the upcoming race. He thanked Wright, the state's attorney, for his endorsement. In addition, he said he accepted and appreciated the endorsements of Schock and Brauer.

Nichols said he was proud of the Logan County sheriff's office. He said that when he took office, change was needed, and change has come. He said the department is now one of the most highly respected departments in the state.

Nichols spoke about the excellent work his officers did in the investigation of the Gee murders. He also named other murders and an attempted murder that went on during that time. The crimes were solved and perpetrators prosecuted successfully.

He spoke about being pleased with the accuracy of the Gee investigation and how the exceptional work by the Logan County department, in conjunction with other state and federal investigators, had brought about a solid conviction of Christopher Harris.

Nichols said, "Indeed, change is good, but change has to be real." He said changes he had made were for the good of the citizens of Logan County, and he expressed appreciation to the deputies of his department for their support in the changes.

He closed by thanking the audience and the whole community for their support and said he hopes to continue to serve the people of Logan County. Nichols ended by saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Folks, the sheriff's office ain't broke."

The night concluded with Bender thanking everyone for attending, reminding everyone to get out and vote, and extending an invitation for everyone to attend the March 4 candidate forum in the race for Logan County sheriff.

[By NILA SMITH]

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