by Todd Wineburner
Livingston County Republicans gathered at the Pontiac Elks Country Club Monday night to raise funds for projects throughout the year. The event was the annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, and this year the focus was on Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, the event’s keynote speaker. Livingston County GOP chair John McGlasson said the local party organization was making no secret of their desire to see Rutherford run for the state’s highest office, prompting them to dub the event a “Draft Dan Dinner.”
For his part, Rutherford said he was flattered by the attention, but he said his primary goal is using the treasurer’s office to bring the state back onto more solid financial footing, and to promote a revitalization of the Illinois Republican party. Rutherford said that he’s living proof that downstate Republican candidates can get elected.
Also in attendance was State Senator Jason Barickman, who shared Rutherford’s desire to generate grassroots support for Republican causes and candidates. He also discussed his vote in favor of same-sex marriage in the Illinois Senate, saying that he doesn’t support the notion of same-sex marriage, but he does support the protection of religious liberty. Given the fact that the bill had enough support to pass, Barickman says he’s proud of his leadership role in ensuring that the bill was amended with appropriate protections for religious organizations that don’t support same-sex marriage. Barickman added emphatically that same-sex is not among the pressing issues facing the state, and that significant action to correct the state’s financial situation is what’s needed.
State Representative Josh Harms of Watseka said he didn’t know what the fate of same-sex marriage in the House, but he strongly agreed with Barickman about the significance of many of the issues that have made it to the forefront. Harms says the state’s most important questions are being avoided in favor of more peripheral issues, and he’s anxious to engage in real debate concerning the state’s financial crisis.
Veteran central Illinois lawmaker Dan Brady of the 105th Legislative District was also in attendance. Reapportionment has moved some Livingston County communities into Brady’s district, so he says he was happy to take the chance to meet some of his new constituents at Monday’s event. Brady said, too, that the state’s fiscal situation has to eventually move to the top of the leadership’s priority list. Brady says education, infrastructure, and other fundamental areas are being compromised by inaction on budgetary problems.
All of the candidates agreed that one “silver lining” to the state’s fiscal cloud might be a willingness of voters to give Republicans more of a voice in state governme