By Kevin Lee
Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Republican candidates visited the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Monday evening, seeking the vote of limited-government supporters known collectively as the “Tea Party.”
The Tea Party movement is known for its series of energetic protests to higher taxes and expanded government programs, such as the new federal health care reform law.
Hundreds of Tea Party supporters heard from conservative candidates hoping to upstage Democratic incumbents in the November general election.
Bobby Schilling, a Rock Island businessman, is seeking Democratic Congressman Phil Hare’s 17th Congressional District seat.
Schilling said Tea Party support was one group he was depending on to help him win at the ballot box.
“We’re going to have grassroots that’s just phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve got coordinators in all 23 counties. In Rock Island County, we’ve got a good setup. We’re just going to outwork him.”
Sam McCann, a Carlinville native and owner of a construction company, will face Democratic state Sen. Deanna Demuzio, D-Carlinville, in November.
McCann acknowledged Tea Party supporters could be seen as outsiders, but said Tea Party supporters would be willing to fall in line with the Republican Party because of their overwhelming frustration with Democratic-led state and federal legislatures.
“When we play a football game, we don’t put five teams out there, we put two teams out there. There’s a winner and a loser,” he said. “Regardless of what moniker you want to put on it, I think the important thing is you have hundreds, if not thousands, of people who want their country back.”
Al Reynolds, a retired information services manager, moved to Danville three years ago, where he helped organize the East Central Illinois Tea Party group.
Reynolds ran as an unopposed write-in candidate in February’s primary election who depended on Tea Party support and earned the Republican nomination in the 52nd state Senate District.
Reynolds will now face state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign, in November’s general election, and is hoping more Tea Party supporters are willing to reform the Republican Party from within.
“That’s how we’re making our move right now, is to put people into the Republican Party that are of the core values that we see here in the Tea Party,” he said.
The nationwide Tea Party tour began in Nevada to protest U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and will next stop in Rockford on Tuesday.