EDITOR'S NOTE: See the full video of Gov. Bruce Rauner's Lincoln Day Dinner remarks on the Du Quoin Call's Facebook page.
PINCKNEYVILLE -- With the March 20 primary election a little more than two weeks away, Saturday's Lincoln Day Dinner had a little bit for everyone in attendance - fiery rhetoric, pleas for support and all the fixings of a campaign cycle in full swing.
State, local and federal Republican candidates gave short speeches on the annual celebration day for the Republican Party and the Pinckneyville dinner was one of four in the region that day.
The Perry County version of the event featured the two governor's race candidates in incumbent Bruce Rauner and his primary challenger in conservative State Rep. Jeanne Ives.
During her speech, Ives highlighted a nearby outdoor display at the Joel Catholic Center, where pink and blue yard flags were planted to represent the 2,900 children who are aborted worldwide each day.
"This Republican governor is the first governor ever, in the history of the United States, to put in taxpayer funding of abortion via legislation," she said. "And when you think about it, we are a state that has $250 billion in debt, still $9 billion in unpaid bills and this is what he has prioritized spending money on."
Ives went on to say the Republican Party is in conflict and it needs someone who "actually adheres to our Republican principles."
"As Republicans, we stand for principle and we stand for getting something done," she said. "But none of us Republicans sitting down there now trust Bruce Rauner.
"And that is part of the reason why he's unelectable in 2018 in the November election."
Ives also called Rauner "ineffective" in his fight against Democrat House speaker Michael Madigan.
"The only chance to beat the Democrats in November is somebody like me," she said. "Somebody like me who has a deep policy knowledge."
Rauner - who arrived to the event after Ives and did not mention his challenger in his roughly 11-minute speech - pledged to make the Republican Party the majority party in the state and called it the "party of America."
"We picked up six seats in the General Assembly for 2016 for Republicans," Rauner said. "Even though it was a tough election cycle and I'm committed to picking up nine seats in the House of Representatives this year so we can knock Mike Madigan out of office and he's not Speaker any more."
Similar to Ives, Rauner said he's right candidate for a Republican victory in November.
"I'm the one person who's going to beat (J.B.) Pritzker and Madigan in November," Rauner said. "And I'm going to do it. I've met Pritzker, I know him, I know him well."
Also speaking on the night were state Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo), State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), 116th District challenger David Friess, Republican Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis, County Treasurer Mary Jane Craft and Republican Perry County State's Attorney David Searby, Jr.
Schimpf, who has been a senator for 14 months, stated he is limited in what he could do in Springfield and listed three things - introduce legislation, argue legislation and cast a vote.
The Waterloo attorney also noted that Senate Joint Resolution 0054, which would create a task force to study the proposed four-lane Southwest Illinois Connector, is still sitting in Assignments more than two weeks after being filed.
"That's one of the frustrating things I've learned," he said. "Just because you file legislation, that doesn't mean it will move."
Schimpf is scheduled to make a presentation to the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce today on the highway proposal. The project has gotten some pushback from Pinckneyville residents concerned that a proposed bypass around the city would cause severe economic hardship due to lower traffic counts.