CHAMPAIGN — Three of the five Republicans most often mentioned as potential candidates for governor next year — state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, U.S. Rep Aaron Schock of Peoria and Chicago venture capitalist Bruce Rauner — attended Saturday's Champaign County GOP Lincoln Day luncheon.
Absent were State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
The keynote speaker at the luncheon was former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who was defeated for re-election last year in one of the most expensive congressional races in the country.
West called on Republicans to stand up for limited government, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, gun rights and a strong military.
He also gave a verbal slap to local U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who earlier in the luncheon had said he would work for compromise on some issues in Congress.
"When we appease, when we acquiesce, when we accommodate, we lose," West said. "Now Rodney brought up the word compromise. Let me tell you what the word compromise means in Washington, D.C. The word compromise means that if you're a constitutional conservative, you surrender your values and you do what the other side wants. I don't remember hearing the word compromise in the early days of the Obama administration when he had the White House, the House and the Senate. I don't remember hearing about compromise with the Affordable Care Act. I don't remember hearing about compromise with the stimulus. I don't remember hearing about compromise with card check, or our debt or our deficit.
"Stand up. As Abraham Lincoln said, plant your feet and stand where you are."
Brady, who lost the race for governor to Pat Quinn in 2010 by less than 1 percentage point, said he is "laying the groundwork for another run. It's a little hard to have thousands of people around the state ask you to do it again after falling short by 16,000 votes. We're planning on finishing the job you helped us start a couple of years ago."
Schock made no reference to his gubernatorial ambitions in the five-minute speech he offered as an introduction to West. But he said later that he is still interested in running for governor. Much of Schock's speech was devoted to praise for Davis, whose district includes Champaign-Urbana.
"In a big freshmen class he's already earned the respect and admiration from his colleagues," Schock said of Davis.
He also said that Davis is "the No. 1 target" of House Democrats in the 2014 election.
"You will remember that in the last cycle Nancy Pelosi said that her path to 25 (new House seats) began in Illinois. They targeted six seats and they got five of them. And now she needs 15 seats to become Speaker," Schock said. "If you don't think that the next two years, the president's whole strategy is to be to divide and conquer the Republican Party, that's what he's all about, the campaigner in chief, 24/7."
Rauner, who was one of the financial sponsors of the luncheon, told the crowd he is "not even a candidate for any office at this point," although after his speech he said the only office he is considering seeking is governor.
"I am here today," Rauner told the crowd at the annual Republican luncheon, "because I am outraged about the condition of our state, the trajectory that our state is on, and we have got to take it back. We have got to restore the principles of limited government, low taxes, personal freedom, personal responsibility. If we don't change, our children will not have a chance for prosperous lives in Illinois."