Kendall County GOP conservatives seek limelight with Bailey

Oswego Township Supervisor Joe West, center, and Oswego Township Trustee Donna Sawicki, right, were eager to have a photo taken with Illinois gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey during a campaign stop on June 16, 2022 in Oswego. West is a candidate for state representative and Sawicki is running for a seat on the Kendall County Board. (Mark Foster --

OSWEGO – Candidates for political office love a crowd of voters and will show up whenever given the opportunity to make a stump speech.

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s recent visit to Oswego drew not only a big crowd, but plenty of local political candidates seeking a moment in the limelight.

About 100 people, clearly representing the conservative wing of the Republican Party, turned out for Bailey’s appearance on June 16 at The Dairy Barn in downtown Oswego.

Polls show Bailey running ahead of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and other candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor in the June 28 primary election.

Leticia Bounds of Oswego was wearing a Bailey T-shirt as she eagerly awaited the candidate’s arrival. Her reasons for supporting Bailey are simple.

“He fought for kids during COVID and he’s pro-life,” Bounds said.

Opposition to mask and vaccine mandates during the pandemic and opposition to abortion are good examples of more recent as well as on-going issues that have helped define the conservative movement.

The event was organized by Little Rock Township Trustee Becky Nelson, a conservative political activist who is Bailey’s Kendall County coordinator.

Before Bailey’s tour bus rolled into town, Nelson kept the crowd warmed up with a series of speeches from candidates for Kendall County, state and federal offices.

The speeches were short on policy positions and long on emotional appeals to a conservative voter base that views itself as being threatened both by liberal Democrats and Republicans they see as undeserving of the party label.

“Our Constitution, our freedoms are under attack,” declared Oswego Township Trustee Donna Sawicki, a candidate for Kendall County Board in District 2.

Not to be outdone, County Board member Dan Koukol of Oswego, who is running for reelection in District 2, praised Bailey as a farmer who will not forget his Illinois roots, in a folksy manner that played well with the crowd.

Koukol also told his audience he has never voted for a tax increase as a county board member.

Kendall County Board member Dan Koukol of Oswego delivers a campaign stump speech on June 16, 2022 in downtown Oswego. Koukol is seeking reelection to his District 2 seat. (Mark Foster --

Kendall County Republican Party Chairman James Marter, candidate for the 14th Congressional District seat, railed against “inflationary spending” in Washington.

But the crowd showed its biggest approval when Marter described a trip to Mar-A-Lago to visit former President Trump, cheering when Marter invoked Trump’s name.

“America First! Save America!” shouted Marter to conclude his stump speech.

Another 14th District candidate, Jamie Milton of Fox River Grove, played on similar themes, emphasizing the integrity of the country’s borders and a call for eliminating the federal Department of Education.

Other local candidates also addressed the crowd.

“I’ll put taxpayers first,” said Oswego Village Board member Kit Kuhrt, candidate for Kendall County treasurer.

Oswego Township Supervisor Joe West, candidate for 84th District state representative, also spoke to the group, citing a pro-life stance in his brief remarks.

Riding along with Bailey on his mammoth campaign tour bus was Attorney General candidate Tom DeVore and 75th District state representative candidate Jed Davis of Newark.

“We’re done with government telling you what to do,” DeVore told the crowd.

There were no MAGA hats or Trump signs to be seen, but the crowd seemed to endorse Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.

Steve Cortes, a Trump campaign operative, received cheers from the group when he said that Trump will be elected in 2024 “for a third time.”

Still, the focus of the rally was on Bailey and members of the crowd waved “Fire Pritzker” placards as Bailey, a state senator, emerged from his tour bus.

“This here is how we’re going to change Illinois,” Bailey said as he surveyed the crowd.

His remarks were brief, focusing on kitchen table issues like the price of gasoline and groceries.

“People are hungry for change,” Bailey said.

Little Rock Township Trustee Becky Nelson fires up the crowd at a rally for Illinois gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey on June 16, 2022 in Oswego. (Mark Foster --