Democrats booed by unions at State Fair

August 15, 2012

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Democrats had a rough go of it on Governor’s Day Wednesday at the State Fair when union members that typically support the party turned against it.

Gov. Pat Quinn was followed around the fairgrounds by a parade of union members. Their unions had supported his election. But Wednesday, the rank and file booed him, complaining about plans to close state facilities or change their pensions.

The boos were so loud, reporters couldn't hear what Quinn was saying into the microphone. A plane overhead trailed a banner that said, “Gov Quinn — Unfair to workers.”

Nevertheless, Quinn carried on with his speech.

"I inherited a lot of problems that I didn’t create, but I’m here to repair and resolve them, reform them," he told the raucous crowd.

After the crowd dispersed, state employee Patricia Williams, who said she works at the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno, said she plans to retire at the end of the year even though she doesn't want to. She said she's worried she won't get the same pension deal if she waits.

"It's a shame to think I worked 40 years and now I'm gonna go backwards," she said. "We're losing everything we ever worked for."

Congressman Danny Davis, who was with Quinn, said state Democrats treat unions better than Republicans.

"If they think they’re going to get more consideration from that group than they get from Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan and John Cullerton, I don’t know what planet they’re living on," Davis said. 

Earlier in the day, Democrats talked to a much friendlier crowd at a hotel banquet room. They spent the morning speaking to a full room. Some talked about what they've done so far in office, but most of the attention was put on the presidential election.

"Take this presidential election personally," Ill. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin told the audience. "Take it personally as Democrats from President Obama's home state."

But what's a political rally without a gaffe or two? Gov. Quinn got mixed up when he tried to talk about an infamous terrorist.

"I think everybody knows that Obama - he's gone, he's dead," Quinn said. 

The crowd let him know about his mix-up.

"Osama bin Laden," he later corrected himself as the crowd applauded.

Quinn chuckled that he won’t try that phrase again.

For their part, Republicans, who are in the minority in the state legislature, try to rally their base on Thursday.