After protesters gather, Rauner skips Republican fundraiser

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday pulled out of a Rosemont fundraiser for the state party where he was billed as a “special guest” after busloads of protesters unhappy with his position on the Affordable Care Act assembled outside.

Tickets for the “Cocktails with the Congressmen” event at Gene & Georgetti steakhouse ranged from $10,000 for hosts to $100 for general admission. Along with Rauner, congressmen Peter Roskam of Wheaton, Randy Hultgren of Plano, Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Mike Bost of Murphysboro and Adam Kinzinger of Channahon were scheduled to attend the event, closed to members of the media. Several congressmen, including Roskam, slipped through the side doors of the restaurant, to the jeers of the roughly 50 protesters outside.

While Rauner has expressed general concerns over congressional Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, he has not disclosed whether he has plans to join with other governors, including John Kasich of Ohio, in opposing the repeal. Under that plan, Illinois is expected to lose $40 billion in Medicaid funding over the next decade, according to the Illinois Health and Hospitals Association.

Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said the governor had traveled to Springfield to prepare for a 10-day special session he called last week, as the state has 10 days left before a new fiscal year begins with no budget in place.

According to a news release, the governor plans to deliver a live address on the budget at 6 p.m. today.

“This is another abdication of leadership,” said Julie Sampson, political director of Citizen Action Illinois, which, along with Planned Parenthood, Indivisible Chicago and other groups, brought busloads of protesters to the restaurant. “Health care for a lot of people is at stake in this fight, and the governor has said very little about how he would want the bill to change, what he plans to do if the feds cap and cut Medicaid.”

Protesters lined up along Higgins Road, shouting, “Show me what Democracy looks like!” “Wreck it, Rauner” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Peter Roskam's got to go!” Signs included “Republicans — unsell your soul” as well as a “Flat Bruce” cutout of Rauner designed to poke fun at the governor's absence.

Reid McCollum of Hindsale — co-chairman of the Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th, a group working to defeat Roskam — called the congressman's recent low profile on hot-button issues, including health care reform, “not democratic.”

Roskam's chief of staff responded in a statement.

“Today's event is a necessary function of the political process,” David Mork said. “It's an effort to make sure that we're able to communicate effectively our vision for a more prosperous and secure future for the people of our state and the nation.”

Roskam — who represents the 6th Congressional District stretching from the Barrington area southeast through Elgin and St. Charles and then east to West Chicago, Wheaton and Willowbrook — has come under fire from constituents who say he's held few public events.

He declined to meet with some 400 protesters at a Palatine Township GOP event in early February. Some 18,000 callers participated in a telephone town hall that Roskam's office hosted later that month.

The Illinois GOP and Cook County Republican Party declined to comment.

  Clare Duggan of Beverly explains why she joined other protesters outside the Illinois GOP fundraiser Monday at Gene & Georgetti steakhouse in Rosemont. Steve Lundy/
  Protesters picket Monday as Illinois GOP leaders show up at Gene & Georgetti steakhouse in Rosemont for a fundraiser. Steve Lundy/
  Gov. Bruce Rauner did not attend Monday's Republican fundraiser in Rosemont as planned. Bob Chwedyk/, April 2017
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