Republicans Take Early Hits At Durbin, Ahead Of Potential Challenge To Rauner

Aug 17, 2016

Gov. Bruce Rauner arrives at the Illinois State Fair on a motorcycle. He could face a challenge in 2018 from Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
Credit Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

Illinois Republicans rallied Wednesday at the state fair for Governor's Day -- so called because their party controls the governor's mansion. They spent some time talking about how to hold onto it two years from now, when the mansion will once again be up for grabs.

It may be unofficial, but the GOP is already committed to having Gov. Bruce Rauner as its nominee in 2018.

Who Democrats will put up to run against him is unclear. One oft-mentioned contender: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

"Anybody here want that?" Congressman Rodney Davis, R-13 asked at the fair rally.

The crowd yelled back "no." Some people booed.

"How can a guy who got elected to go to Washington when I was 12 and in the fifth grade, who has watched this country's debt explode to $19 trillion dollars think that he can fix the problems here in Springfield?" Davis continued.

(Durbin was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. After Davis spoke, Congressman John Shimkus, R-15, took the podium. Shimkus was first elected to the U.S. House in 1996 as well, on a term limits pledge he has since defied).

For his part, Gov. Rauner laughed, and pivoted from a question about a challenge from Durbin.

Durbin, of course, wasn't at the GOP rally. But he did send a campaign email while it was going on -- lambasting Rauner for vetoing an automatic voter registration bill.