No need for long faces, Trump's happy warriors say
For months, suburbanites Mark Fratella and Andrew Gasser waged thankless battles in DuPage and McHenry counties, respectively, on behalf of President-elect Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, hours after Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, the two Republican organizers exhaled following a tough, go-it-alone campaign in the bluest of blue states with no help from a GOP establishment that treated the New York billionaire like a pariah.
Their message to shellshocked Democrats and moderate Republicans is one of cheer.
"From a national perspective, I don't think I could ask for anything better," said Fratella, an Elmhurst teacher, precinct committeeman and Trump delegate.
Fratella credits the "silent Trump vote" -- people who wouldn't publicly admit to backing the former host of "The Apprentice" -- for making the difference. He hopes Trump can win over voters who wanted Clinton.
"Maybe we've turned a corner to where we can work together and look for the best interests of America ahead of political parties," he said.
Gasser, a McHenry County Board member and Algonquin Township Republican Party chairman, spent the fall walking precincts for Trump.
"In McHenry County, we are pretty excited and feel we are definitely moving in the right direction," he said Wednesday. "When you get outside (Illinois House Speaker Michael) Madigan-controlled areas, voters are very independent. They have different views, they're very diverse and they don't want government in their lives."
Now it's time for statesmanship, he said. "We as Americans have to get beyond identity politics."
Fratella grew up in a Detroit suburb where his autoworker father kept a photo of John F. Kennedy on their wall. He became a die-hard Republican after Ronald Reagan was elected, has worked on multiple presidential campaigns and met Trump a number of times.
Illinois GOP standard-bearers such as Gov. Bruce Rauner and Sen. Mark Kirk didn't share his enthusiasm, shunning the party convention in Cleveland and criticizing Trump for some of his remarks.
The campaign friction shouldn't hurt the Chicago region, Fratella said. "I'm not worried about any punitive action from the White House."
Trump is "not as heavy-handed as people think," he said. "Business is business in the end with him when it comes to America. He wants to create American jobs and keep businesses profitable, not grind any grudges."