MENDON, Ill. — Former President Donald Trump used a rural west-central Illinois fairgrounds rally Saturday night to endorse Darren Bailey for the Republican nomination for governor in Tuesday’s primary as he also restated his backing for U.S. Rep. Mary Miller and took a victory lap for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Darren is a farmer and he’s a fighter and he has been an outstanding warrior in the Illinois State Senate where he’s totally, totally respected by all of them,” Trump told a crowd of thousands at the Adams County Fairgrounds near Quincy.
“He will crack down on the violent crime that is devouring our Democrat-run cities and restore the state of Illinois to greatness. Darren has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump said, labeling first-term, reelection seeking Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker “one of the worst governors in America.”
Bailey, an ardent Trump supporter who has actively sought the former president’s endorsement as the capstone for success in a six-way GOP primary race, said he will work to have Illinois welcome a new White House bid by Trump in 2024.
“Here’s the deal. I will not lie to anyone and I will not let anything go unnoticed. And when I see it, I will name it,” Bailey said after Trump told the story of Bailey plucking a misplaced hair out of the former president’s head during pre-rally picture taking.
“We have our work cut out for us here in Illinois, friends,” Bailey said. “I’ve made a promise to President Trump that in 2024, Illinois will roll the red carpet out for him because Illinois will be ready for President Trump.”
Trump lost Illinois by 17% of the vote in his winning bid for the presidency in 2016 and his losing reelection run in 2020.
Trump, who has often delayed endorsements unless he was sure of a candidate’s victory, predicted Bailey would “win the primary very big and you’re going to go on and win the election.”
Bailey, a 2020 Trump presidential nominating delegate, comes from a downstate region of Illinois where voters have solidly supported the former president, and he has sought to cultivate their backing in his bid for governor as a base of support that has gradually grown across the state.
He’s also been the most demonstrably outspoken critic of Pritzker, starting with lawsuits — ultimately unsuccessful — that sought to block the Democratic governor’s pandemic mitigation orders while promoting an evangelical rural populist candidacy that decries the cultural policies of urban Chicago.
Bailey is in a field of candidates that includes Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, investor Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg, businessman Gary Rabine of Bull Valley, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Hazel Crest attorney Max Solomon.
Trump’s visit was aimed at bolstering turnout for Miller, whose freshman term has been buffeted by controversy, in a contest against five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District. The match up between Miller and Davis, an offshoot of Democratic redistricting following the 2020 Census, is the only one between Republican congressional incumbents in the state’s primary election on Tuesday.
Trump endorsed Miller on Jan. 1 and held a subsequent fundraiser for her at his Mar-a-Lago estate. But Davis has support from much of the local GOP establishment, including 31 of the district’s 35 county GOP chairmen as well as neighboring GOP Congressmen Darin LaHood of Peoria and Mike Bost of Murphysboro.
“With Mary, you get to elect a fearless America First Patriot,” Trump said. “She’s an incredible woman, somebody I’ve gotten to know very well. She’s been with me from day one. No bad back statements, you know, saying bad things about me two years ago, three years ago, one year ago,” Trump said, adding she is “a warrior for our movement.”
Going on to attack the two Republicans on the House select committee investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, the former president told the crowd, “If you want to send a message to (Wyoming U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney, (Illinois) U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger and (Democratic U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and the fake news media, then this Tuesday you need to cast your vote for a truly wonderful person, Mary Miller.”
Miller said that “on behalf of the MAGA patriots in America,” she wanted to thank Trump “for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court” but did not elaborate on what she meant. The court’s decision, she said, “would never have been possible if the Never-Trump RINOs had gotten their way,” — using the term to label Davis a “Republican In Name Only.”
Trump also sought to take credit for the appointment of three conservative justices during his presidency and their role in the 6-3 decision Friday that overturned the court’s 1973 ruling that gave women the right to seek an abortion without undue government interference.
“The court handed down a victory for the Constitution, a victory for the rule of law and above all, a victory for life,” Trump said. Citing generations of the anti-abortion movement as well as constitutional conservatives, “your boundless love, sacrifice and devotion has finally been rewarded in full.”
The crowd chanted, “Thank you, Trump.”
Thousands of Trump supporters gathered inside and on the periphery of the fairgrounds, not far from the Mississippi River bluffs across from Missouri, many sporting red “Make America Great Again” hats, some others wearing shirts proclaiming “Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president” and “God, Guns and Trump.”
Symbolizing the sway Trump still holds over Republican voters, Rhonda Goodwin of nearby Quincy, admitted to not knowing much about Miller’s two years in Congress but said the former president’s endorsement was good enough for her.
“Anybody Trump endorses is probably going to be the winner,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t do a whole lot of my own research. I figured his people have vetted her way more than I ever could and if he’s endorsing her, that’s all I need.”