Republican Darren Bailey brought his campaign for Illinois governor to Crystal Lake on Wednesday, as part of a swing through suburban Illinois counties just under two months before the election.
Bailey, a state senator from downstate Xenia, was on relatively friendly territory in a county that’s been known to support statewide GOP candidates in past elections.
“The American Dream is right here,” Bailey said. “This is what this country is all about.”
Bailey’s message to potential voters on Wednesday was one that has been repeated in current political ads, going after incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker over the SAFE-T Act that the governor signed into law in 2021. Among other things, the law eliminates cash bail in the state.
If fully enacted on Jan. 1, Bailey said, the law would put the rights of crime suspects over those of victims.
“If crime isn’t taken care of, nobody want to live here. Business doesn’t want to come here, and our schools are not safe,” Bailey told reporters. “All the others [are] irrelevant.”
McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced this week that he had joined at least three other state’s attorneys asking a court to block some of the law’s provisions, such as allowing judges to release some suspects without bail.
Crime, taxes and better education are “my three pillars,” Bailey added. “I have talked about that all across the campaign.”
He warned residents in Crystal Lake, a community not known for high crime rates, that the SAFE-T Act would bring Chicago crime to the suburbs.
“People are waking up and understanding what the SAFE-T Act and the no-cash bail brings, because that is exactly how Chicago is being ruled and what Chicagoans are living under,” he said.
“After Jan. 1st, all of Illinois will feel exactly like Chicago is feeling now,” Bailey said.
There are 3,000 people out of jail wearing ankle monitors, Bailey said. “Three-quarters of the bracket brigade are violent criminals,” he claimed.
The no-cash bail provision of the law, Bailey said, puts criminals ahead of victims’ rights.
Bailey also jumped into the issue of Chicago’s recent crime, referencing a weekend drive-by shooting at the West Loop’s Aberdeen Tap. The restaurant’s manager was hit in the shooting, according to media reports.
“Chicago is living ‘The Purge,’” he said referring to a movie series in which murder is legal for one night a year.
Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx have “turned the West Loop into the Wild West,” Bailey said.
Such a message might not have played well in some parts of Illinois, a state where Democrats control the Governor’s Office, both chambers of the General Assembly and its delegation to Washington, D.C. But McHenry County went for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, by a margin of 50% to 47.5%.
In the 2018 election, countywide turnout was 50% with 48,633 votes for Pritzker, or 42% of the total vote, and 60,646 votes, or 52% of the total vote, for his incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, according to McHenry County clerk election reports.
In 2014, turnout was 46% with Rauner receiving 61,827 votes, or 66% of the total vote, and Democrat Pat Quinn getting 29,116 votes, or 31% of the total vote.
Bailey was joined by several Republicans, including McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio, Illinois Comptroller candidate Shannon Teresi, U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Salvi, and Bailey’s running mate, Stephanie Trussell.
Following his stop at Around the Clock Restaurant on Route 14, Bailey was headed to Mundelein and Lisle – cities that often lean blue or elect a mixed ticket – for events at restaurants there.
Around the Clock owner Steve Theofanou said about 100 people packed into the restaurant to hear Bailey, who stayed after the event to talk and shake hands with supporters or curious voters.
One of those likely voters was Marcy Holroyd of Algonquin. She said she saw a Facebook post that morning that Bailey and Trussell would be in Crystal Lake and decided to drive over.
She had met Trussell previously at a Second Amendment Sports event, noting they have a mutual friend, Holroyd said. “I like them together on the ticket,” she said of the Bailey/Trussell campaign.
Trussell focused much of her speech on the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 and its economic impact on restaurants such as Around the Clock.
“JB Pritzker could never go on a tour like this … He would have to talk to Steve [Theofanou] and other people like him who had to make a living during his shutdown,” Trussell said.
Theofanou said the campaign reached out to them for a campaign stop, adding he would be open to Pritzker coming there, too.
“We are open to everyone … regardless of their political affiliation” who wants to listen to voters and answer their questions, Theofanou said.
He has his own concerns, the restaurant owner of 47 years said, including inflation, supply chain problems and the difficulty in hiring servers.
Theofanou said he could not find whole turkey breasts for his kitchen, and he’s seen bread costs rise five times in the past six months.
“Finding quality staff is a challenge,” Theofanou, while thanking the staff that has been there for many years and keep the restaurant running. “But we are all fighting for serving people.”