JOLIET – The governor’s race took the stage – literally – at Family Fiesta where live music was interrupted twice Sunday so candidates could deliver political messages.
Both candidates for lieutenant governor, Democrat Paul Vallas and Republican Evelyn Sanguinetti, came to the event.
Vallas was a substitute for Gov. Pat Quinn, who was expected. Republican candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner, had been tentatively scheduled to come Saturday, but also did not show.
Even so, their running mates gave spirited speeches, although brief ones under time limits granted them while given the stage.
Sanguinetti, although facing a Hispanic audience that may be inclined to vote Democrat, appeared right at home giving her speech in Spanish. She is the child of immigrants from Cuba and Ecuador and related that story to the audience.
“Both of my parents came to the States as immigrants because they wanted a better quality of life,” Sanguinetti later told a non-Spanish speaking reporter in offering a summary of her speech.
Sanguinetti said she asked the audience what they thought of the quality of life – specifically the future of jobs and education – under the Quinn administration.
Vallas, too, peppered his speech with questions to the audience.
“Gov. Quinn supports an increase in the minimum wage,” Vallas said. “He believes that people who work a 40-hour week deserve a living wage. Don’t you?”
Vallas also contended that Rauner would erode education and seek to turn back accessibility to health care made available under the Obama administration.
Sanguinetti appeared to have gotten wind of some of Vallas’ comments when she had arrived a couple of hours afterwards.
“I hear my friend was here talking all kinds of fiction,” Sanguinetti remarked to a supporter when she arrived.
While Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, Sanguinetti and other Republicans are trying to change that in the November election. Local members of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly had a table at the fair and wore Rauner T-shirts.
Steve Orlando, a Joliet resident who is state chairman of the Republican National Historic Assembly, described Rauner as someone with a history of “reaching out to people of diverse backgrounds.”
Vallas and other Democratic speakers, meanwhile, pushed a theme of their party being the friend of working people.
Vallas called Quinn “a governor for the working man and woman.”
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, joined Vallas on the stage and accused Republicans supporting policies that erode wages, pensions and union labor.
“Here in Joliet,” Walsh said, “we were built by the working class – working men and women building a community.”
If Democrats were disappointed that Quinn himself did not arrive, they did not show it. But until Vallas showed up, they had said they were expecting the governor.
Likewise, Republicans at the Fiesta on Saturday afternoon were looking forward to an appearance by Rauner. But with three hours of rain during the day, there would have been few people to meet if Rauner had come.