Pence in Rosemont fires up voters, praises Rauner ahead of fall elections
Vice President Mike Pence came to Rosemont Friday to fire up conservative voters ahead of the midterm elections and rally support for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and GOP members of the Illinois congressional delegation, while his opponents showed up to protest.
His half-hour keynote address, at an event hosted by a group tied to a pro-President Donald Trump political action committee, touched on many of the keystones of the administration's agenda, including immigration policy, trade, tax cuts and Supreme Court appointments.
Almost immediately after Pence took the stage, protesters inside the Westin O'Hare grand ballroom made their presence known. In total, Pence's speech was interrupted five times by protesters, who were escorted out of the building by police.
Each time, the crowd of about 600 chanted "USA! USA!"
One woman held a yellow flag that read, "Trump and Pence must go."
When Pence began to praise U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, of Wheaton, a man said, "Has anyone seen Peter Roskam? I haven't seen him. Where is he?"
Tickets to the event, called "Tax Cuts to Put America First," were free and available by registering on the website of America First Policies, the group connected to the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC.
"Thanks for coming out today. I'm really grateful for almost everybody that came," Pence joked to the crowd. "I respect everybody that came. That's what freedom sounds like."
Inside the hotel lobby, attendees had to go through a Secret Service security checkpoint.
Don and Birgitt Peterson of Yorkville wore red USA softball-style jerseys with "Trump 45" on the back. They've regularly attended political events throughout the years, including appearances by President George H.W. Bush at Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University. They were in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention and at the University of Illinois-Chicago for the Trump rally that was canceled amid protests.
Rosemont authorities said no one Friday was charged, and they described the protest of some 100 people outside the hotel as peaceful. Protesters included new Illinois Democratic Party Executive Director Christian Mitchell, union members and activist groups.
Police, at the behest of the Secret Service, pushed the protesters across River Road to the east sidewalk northeast of the hotel. Rosemont public safety officers used their bikes as crowd control. Pence's caravan used a back entrance, avoiding the protesters.
"We are advocating getting rid of the Trump/Pence regime through persistent, persistent nonviolent protests," said Tricey Morelli, spokesman for the Chicago chapter of Refuse Fascism.
Bensenville resident Tim Hickey said he joined the protest because he considers it his "civic responsibility."
Earlier, Pence headlined a private fundraiser for Roskam, who was in Washington taking votes, Roskam's spokeswoman said.
Rauner, who's been reluctant to align himself with Trump, heaped praise on many of the administration's policies in his introduction of the vice president -- the governor's closest association to the Trump administration to date.
Calling Pence "one of the greatest public servants in America today ... and in American history," Rauner said the former Indiana governor has been a role model to him, and he's tried to model his economic policies off Pence's in Indiana.
Pence applauded Rauner for spearheading a lawsuit challenging whether public employees have to pay unions dues; the case made it up to the Supreme Court, which ruled they do not.
"It was a victory for freedom and working Americans, and every American is grateful," Pence said.
Rauner's appearance was seen as a way to reach out to the GOP's conservative base, many of whom have been turned off by Rauner's positions on social issues and supported his primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
Robert Mendralla, 50, of Palatine, an early Trump supporter, said he's still undecided if he will vote for Rauner.
"I know the party's split," Mendralla said. "This is his first attempt to associate with the 'Trumpicans.' It's a political football he has."