Governor's Day at Illinois State Fair was not Quinn's day

SPRINGFIELD — It was Governor's Day on Wednesday at the Illinois State Fair, but no one could argue it was the governor's day.

Gov. Pat Quinn was booed and jeered at nearly every stop throughout the fairgrounds by hostile union members and retirees who are upset with the governor for a number of reasons: his support for an effort to remake public employee retirement programs, his state budget cuts that would close state facilities, and delays in employee wage increases.

The streets outside the fairgrounds were lined with union members and supporters. One held a sign that read, "Bring back Ryan and Blagojevich." Demonstrators howled at the governor as he and aides tried to munch on fair food at the Pork Patio.

As the governor prepared to speak at the annual Democrat Day festivities, thousands of protesters booed him and shouted, "Liar," "Hey Governor, keep your word," "Quinn is a sin" and "You take the pay cut," among other things.

An airplane flew over the fairgrounds, pulling a banner that read, "Gov. Quinn unfair to workers."

Quinn spoke for about 2 1/2 minutes but few could hear him as the boos and catcalls drowned out his speech. During the talk, aides to the governor were overheard saying, "We've got to get him out of here." But Quinn carried on and shook the hands of the unusually small number of Democrats on the stage.

Among them were House Speaker Michael Madigan, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Secretary of State Jesse White, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago, and 13th Congressional District candidate David Gill of Bloomington. Earlier in the week organizers said that many of the state's targeted Democratic congressional candidates would be at the rally.

Minutes after the abbreviated speech Quinn joked that "if you're the governor of Illinois, you've got to have a tough hide."

He said he wasn't surprised by the angry reception.

"Folks want to keep the current pension system and they don't want to change it. I want to change it," he said. "I think it's best for our students in Illinois in particular. We released two studies in the last two weeks that showed we're putting more money in pensions than we are in education. What kind of a state is that? We've got to make sure that students and children come first. That's what it's all about."

He made no predictions about whether he'd be successful with a legislative special session called for Friday to deal with public pensions.

"I think people saw what AFSCME (the chief state employee union) is all about. They don't want reform, and if they want change, they're going to have to go with what I outlined," Quinn said.

Gill, who is running against Republican Rodney Davis and independent John Hartman in the 13th District, said he had expected protesters but was surprised by the ferocity. Even during his 1 1/2-minute speech, there was jeering and booing.

"People need help. People need help," Gill said as waves of boos and catcalls reached the stage. "I'm running against a man who thinks the millionaires and billionaires ought to keep their tax rates. That's not right. We need to have the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share."

And most of the crowd missed Gill's references to the Medicare program, which Democratic strategists say is political red meat now that Rep. Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's running mate.

"I'm running against a man who supports a budget that slashes away our Medicare program. I want to go to Washington and protect Medicare," Gill said, although few could hear him over the boos and shouts of "Fair contract" and "We want a fair contract."

"I told them what I believe," Gill said later. "I'm running for a federal position and their fight is with the state budget. It's not entirely relevant to what I'm trying to achieve."

Sections (2):News, State
Location (2):Springfield, State

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Sid Saltfork wrote on August 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

Gill should not have attended along side Quinn.  Any Democrat running for office should distance themselves from Quinn.  Quinn's political career is finished.  A close eye should be kept on him until he leaves office.  With nothing to gain, he will resort to more deals that bring in "campaign donations" for a campaign that will be wasted with little money spent on it.  Quinn will find the same reception by public employees everywhere he goes from now until he leaves office.  He is not brave, leading, or reforming.  He is a corrupt, hypocritic, fool.   Mr. Fuddles will be a minor footnote in state history after two more years.

787 wrote on August 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

Oh my, this is way too much fun...

Bring back Ryan and Blago?  It isn't too difficult to see how big labor is handling having a governor with a "D" next to his name, who doesn't coddle and give the labor unions everything that they want, when they want it.

Jim Edgar has to be laughing everytime he picks up the newspaper.

And then Gill tried to calm the crowd?  What kind of a miracle worker does he think that he is?  He should have quietly slipped off into the crowd, grabbed a ProntoPup, and headed home.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Yeah, Gill should have left.  The "bring back Ryan and Blago" was a dig at Quinn.  Sorry, that the less intelligent did not get the sarcasm.  Jim Edgar should be tending his horses; and not getting involved.  He is lucky to have walked away instead of spending time with Ryan, and Blago.  It has nothing to do with "D"s, and "R"s.  Anyone who believes that is way behind the curve.  "Big labor" is a collective of hard working people who have seen their contracts broken, pensions stolen, and constitutional rights trampled on.  Enjoy yourself at the expense of those who served the public including you.  Thiefs that steal from the wrong people pay the price sooner, or later.  You can go back to watching FOX News now.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on August 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Sid, the words "Fox" and "news" should not be used in the same sentence.....they are mutually exclusive terms

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm

My faux pas; or should I say fox paw?  I saw today on a legitimate news program that another "Swift Boat" conspiracy was launched by the GOP.  Now, it is a GOP group of "special ops" people claiming that the President takes too much credit for getting Osama Bin Laden.  Gee.. it succeeded; but he gets blamed.  If it would have failed, he really would have been blamed.  None of the "special ops" critics were involved in the affair; but they are financed by the GOP to criticize the affair.  Wonder if they will pay only 13% of taxes on their pay offs for the televised ads?