Illinois Democrats appreciate accessibility of virtual DNC, recognize challenges of COVID-19, Madigan investigation

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A supercharged two weeks of political activity that will have major implications for the outcome of the November election are about to kick off.

It begins Monday with the Democratic National Convention, followed next week by the Republican National Convention.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected both events.

The 2020 Democratic National Convention will bear very little resemblance to those before when it kicks off on Monday.

The massive gathering of delegates, the balloons and the energy of the cheering party faithful are all a casualty of the coronavirus.

"So I was really looking forward to it. I've had this on my calendar for a very long time, and just being there in that atmosphere around your colleagues from all over the country. It's a big difference," said state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester.

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Illinois delegates are excited for the virtual Democratic National Convention to start Monday.



This year's convention, slated to be in Milwaukee, will now be conducted virtually.

"But you know, I think several months later, we're all kind of used to getting together in this way, and I think that the fact it will be more available and more accessible has its virtues, too," said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, agrees with her colleague.

"So maybe some of them like this better, you know, they don't have to travel and ... be in Milwaukee," she said. "But yes, it will give a lot more people a chance to have a look, to get involved, and they are trying to get different ideas."

These conventions are more than the pomp and circumstance and speeches by big name politicians that people are used to seeing on TV. There is a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes, too.

"All of our working on meetings are going to be filled with, you know, getting the vote out, talking about the importance of this election, talking to, in my particular case, to DACA students, to young people about the importance of this election," said state Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago.

The conventions, in whatever form they take, are always a chance to reach new voters and fire up the faithful.

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"It's important to energize the base because those are your ambassadors, and they'll get other people in," Kelly said.

But Illinois delegates are being mailed "swag bags."

"This has got all kinds of cups in there, you know, treasures that I will value for the rest of my life," Schakowsky said.

This year there is a cloud hanging over the head of the Illinois Democratic Party, with House Speaker Mike Madigan under investigation in the ComEd bribery case.

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"The cloud is there. I think many of us here in Illinois know it," Martinez said. "I don't think out there people don't know much; everybody's got their own issues going on in their own state."

The focus is instead on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and November.

"I think the breakout speech is going to come from our vice presidential nominee," Welch said. "I think the world is going to get to see in primetime a dynamic, phenomenal Black woman give the best speech of her life."

Conventions also traditionally provide the party a bounce.

That, too, may be different this year, with enthusiasm for the ticket providing more of the lift than the convention itself.
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