While New Jersey Governor Chris Christie headlined a fundraiser for Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner Friday evening in the Loop, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the event to decry the pair's conservative stance on a myriad of social issues.
“Both of these politicians pose as moderates, but we’re here to call attention to the fact that both Bruce Rauner and Chris Christie have extreme positions on both the social, as well as the economic pocket book issues,” said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois.
The closed-door fundraiser was held at the Hilton Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Ave., where tickets cost between $500 and $2,500. Republicans younger than 30 could attend the event for $150.
Chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Rauner-Christie has got to go,” McNary was joined outside by advocates for gun safety, marriage equality, tax fairness, retirement security, women’s right to choose, public education and raising the minimum wage.
Attempting to point out that Rauner and Christie, the latter of whom is a possible candidate for president, are both "out of touch with mainstream voters," the protest featured representatives from groups such as Equality Illinois, the Illinois Choice Action Team, and unions including AFSCME, the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU*.
“Bruce Rauner and Chris Christie are two peas in a pod, but that is one vegetable Illinoisans can’t stomach,” McNary said.
Meanwhile, inside the fundraiser, Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said the organization is donating another $2.5 million to Rauner's campaign for Illinois governor. The Winnetka businessman has already received $1.5 million from the association.
Among the protesters was Garrett Evans, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 dead and 17 wounded in 2007.
Evans criticized Rauner for saying during a GOP primary debate in February that he supports the constitutional right for someone to own an assault weapon. Christie also fell under criticism for recently vetoing a New Jersey bill that would have limited high capacity ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
“What do we really need those guns for? Are we at war?” Evans asked.
Here's more from the protest:
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who is seeking re-election, has long pushed for a ban on “military-style” weapons in the state.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, took aim at the politicians’ stances on marriage equality.
“Bruce Rauner is bad for marriage equality, and bad for Illinois,” he said. “It’s only appropriate that Mr. Rauner is appearing today with conservative Gov. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, because Bruce Rauner says he would have vetoed marriage equality if he were governor in Illinois and Chris Christie actually vetoed marriage equality in New Jersey.”
Under the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which Gov. Pat Quinn signed back in November, same-sex couples in Illinois have equal and full access to the rights and protections of marriage are available to heterosexual couples.
Union representatives at Friday’s protest also attacked Rauner for opposing a raise to the minimum wage.
“Rauner makes a million a week but doesn’t think a full-time working person should make enough to escape poverty,” said Dulce Leyva, an SEIU member who works at Alivio Medical Center, making $10 an hour.
In January, Rauner told downstate Alton radio station WGBZ-AM that he would support rolling back Illinois’ minimum wage from the current $8.25 to $7.25.
“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” Rauner told the radio station. “I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois.”
Meanwhile, Quinn has been pushing to boost the state's $8.25 minimum wage to $10.
“We need a governor that can relate to us,” Leyva said. “We need somebody that’s going to understand our working families, our communities, our values.”
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.