SPRINGFIELD — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday called on Illinois Democrats to continue the momentum they began in 2018 when the party gained two congressional seats in Illinois enroute to gaining control of the U.S. House.
Pelosi also said Democratic initiatives passed by the House have public support even if the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate keeps the legislation bottled up without a vote.
“All of this legislation is alive and well in the general public,” Pelosi told the Democratic County Chairs’ Association. “Since I’m in Springfield, I’ll quote a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said 'public sentiment is everything. With it we can accomplish almost anything. Without it practically nothing.'”
Pelosi was the keynote speaker at the annual Democratic gathering that drew 2,100 people this year. It coincided with Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair, the first time in four years Democrats have been able to claim the day for themselves.
Pelosi acknowledged the Democratic victories last year put Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the Governor’s Mansion, Democrats in all of the statewide elected office and Democrats in super majorities in the Illinois House and Senate.
Pelosi said she wanted to “catch the spark of Illinois, to catch the spark of the heartland of America where our victory in 2020 will spring from.”
Pelosi called U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell “Moscow Mitch,” an epithet attached to him for blocking election bills aimed at blocking Russian interference in U.S. elections. She saved some vitriol for President Donald Trump who, she said, “has no respect for God’s creation, the land of America.”
Pelosi said the next things Congress must do include passing legislation to stop so-called “dark money” in financing political campaigns, addressing climate change and passing an infrastructure bill.
“In the near, near future, we must pass gun violence prevention legislation,” she said.
Springfield lies in the 13th Congressional District where Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Rodney Davis in what promises to be a hotly contested race. Davis often tries to link Londrigan with Pelosi who can be a polarizing figure in her own right. Asked about being used as a campaign foil by Davis, Pelosi said the Democrats have done quite well despite the attacks.
“In this last election, Republicans had 137,000 ads describing me as a San Francisco liberal, which I proudly am,” Pelosi said. “They are not saying it in a complimentary way. It didn’t work. We won 43 seats. We’ve heard that before.”
Prior to the Democrats’ brunch, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said Pelosi’s appearance in Springfield was a plus for Londrigan.
“Nancy Pelosi used to be a polarizing figure. Now, she’s the center of the Democratic Party,” Cullerton said.
That’s not how the National Republican Congressional Committee saw it. The committee issued a statement saying “notable socialist crooks” were attending the brunch, including Pelosi, Londrigan, House Speaker Michael Madigan and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline.
The Illinois Republican Party said, “Illinois Democrats will try every which way to avoid answering questions Illinoisans deserve answers to. Their silence on corruption ravaging their party further erodes what trust the public has left in government.”
Among other things, the organization has called for indicted Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park to resign.
The internal problems of Democrats weren’t on the agenda Wednesday. Instead, it was the pep rally that the event has traditionally been.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, ticked off the accomplishments of the legislation with Democrats in complete control, from getting a new contract for state employees to raising the minimum wage to approving a balanced budget and a new capital bill.
Referring to former Gov. Bruce Rauner and Trump respectively, Kristina Zahorik, president of the Chairs’ Association, said, “We took out one bad leader and we are ready to take out another.”
“We didn’t just create a blue wave, we created a blue tsunami here in Illinois,” crowed Pritzker.
Doug Finke: 217-788-1527; email@example.com; @dougfinkesjr