Awake Illinois draws a small crowd; Bailey blames gas prices
SPRINGFIELD — Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey kicked off the biggest political week of the year in Springfield on Tuesday by criticizing Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s economic policies and promising to end sex-ed standards enshrined in the state law last year.
Bailey spoke outside the Illinois State Capitol at an event sponsored by Awake Illinois, a group born out of anti-warrant fervor during the COVID-19 pandemic that has come under fire. scrutiny for his inflammatory rhetoric about LGBTQ rights, which drew around 60 people.
Under signs reading “GENDER IS NOT INTERCHANGEABLE! GOD CREATED A MAN/WOMAN” and “dad /dad/ name a humane man who protects his children from gender ideology,” Bailey on Tuesday stressed the importance of fighting for “those freedoms that are being taken away from us.”
“Children are our most precious asset, but our children and our rights as parents are being stripped away from us,” he said during an eight-minute speech.
He acknowledged the small crowd size, which he blamed on economic conditions that kept some from traveling to Springfield.
“Some of you had to make the decisions today, and some of you had to sacrifice whether or not you came here,” said Bailey, a state senator from Xenia. “And I’m going to argue that maybe that’s one of the very reasons why this crowd size is smaller than we think it should be because people in this state are now making decisions if we put food on our table or if we fill our gas tanks.
The event took place on the eve of the first of two political days in an election year at the Illinois State Fair. Pritzker and the state’s top Democrats will speak on Wednesday, while Bailey and the state’s top Republicans are expected to host their party’s rally on Thursday.
Other speakers at Tuesday’s event included Bailey’s running mate, Lt. Governor nominee Stephanie Trussell, GOP Attorney General nominee Thomas DeVore and a group of Republican lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly known unofficially as the “Eastern Bloc”. This group, which includes Bailey, has pushed for Chicago’s separation from the rest of the state and opposed Pritzker’s COVID-19 vaccine orders and other pandemic mitigation mandates.
Bailey did not respond to questions from reporters after his speech, which has been the norm since he came under fire earlier this month for a 2017 Facebook video in which he said Holocaust deaths during World War II paled in comparison to the lives lost through abortion.
Her comments were condemned by several Jewish groups, community leaders and Pritzker, who is Jewish and has made abortion rights a key issue in the campaign against Bailey. While Bailey later said in a statement that he was “in no way” trying to downplay the millions killed in the Holocaust, he claimed in a radio interview that Jewish leaders told him that his comparison was valid. He did not respond to a request from the Tribune wanting to know the identity of these leaders.
DeVore, a lawyer from downstate Sorento, told the crowd he had “no interest” in being a politician but wanted to “help the people take control of their government.”
“Let me ask you this, it doesn’t matter which side of the equation you are on, masking or vaccinating, I don’t care, you have to admit that was a good question, at least a good question of if the governor had the power to do what he did,” DeVore said. “And if it was a fair question, at a minimum, the attorney general never attacks the people, he defends them.”
DeVore’s lawsuit against the state over Pritzker’s pandemic warrants for schools was dismissed by a state judge last week.
Awake Illinois, which formed in May 2021 in Naperville and has spread across the state and claimed the mantle of “parental rights,” expanding its reach to push inaccurate claims that critical Race, a college-level academic setting, was taught in public elementary and secondary schools.
The group also recently directed its anger at new standards for school sex education, enacted by Pritzker last year. Last month, after the group targeted a kid-friendly drag event at a bakery in suburban northwest McHenry County, warning, “They’re coming for your kids.”
The business was robbed and vandalized the day before the show, forcing the event to be canceled. Police have arrested a 24-year-old man who has been charged with a hate crime and criminal damage to property. Awake Illinois disavowed the attack.
Trussell, Bailey’s running mate, herself came under fire after WGN-Ch. 9 reported this week on her past social media posts on Facebook and Twitter in which she criticized politicians who support a “gay agenda”.
Trussell, a former conservative radio host on WLS-AM 890, briefly discussed the report while dashing away from reporters.
“There’s no way I can hate gay people. If anyone knows my lifestyle, who I am and where I’m from, there’s no way. I like everyone. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
Petrella reported from Chicago.