Republicans rally at Illinois State Fair, taking aim at Gov. Pritzker's school mask mandate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Republicans gathered in Springfield at the State Fair Thursday to rally the party faithful as they look ahead to the 2022 election.

They talked about the need for party unity, with Gov. JB Pritzker their no. 1 target for criticism.

Republican leaders were critical of not just Pritzker, but also House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden. There are three factors they hope will motivate Republicans across the state to rise up.

"You want to know what my biggest priority is in 2022? If you haven't guessed it, look at the banner. Say it with me, let's fire Pritzker!" said Don Tracy, Republican Party Chairman, firing up the crowd gathered on the State Fair Grounds, with a huge "Fire Pritzker" sign as the podium backdrop.

Republicans are hoping to capitalize on frustrations with Pritzker's handling of the pandemic, most recently the school mask mandate.

They also directed attacks at President Biden over the unfolding evacuation crisis in Afghanistan.

RELATED: Democrats gather at Illinois State Fair for 'Governor's Day'

"I look at what's happened in Afghanistan. It is an epic failure and Joe Biden owns it. Every bit of it. And his team owns it," said Congressman Darren LaHood (R) 18th District.

LaHood said he is still mulling a run for governor, but is waiting to see how the congressional maps are redrawn.

So is Congressman Rodney Davis, who said at an earlier event that his decision won't be based on who else in the race.

"There's one thing Republicans and Democrats know about me. I don't shy away from a fight. And if I decide that this is our next step towards serving the people of Illinois and the people of America, then we're going to go in and make our case, and then let the voters decide," said Congressman Rodney Davis (R) 13th District.

Vaccine questions are still dogging gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, who won't disclose his vaccination status. Neither will Gary Rabine, although both say getting the shot should be a matter of personal choice.

The third declared candidate, Paul Shimpf said he's vaccinated, but like his counterparts opposes mandates.

Republicans stressing the need to get candidates to run in every race and to come together. Support for former President Trump still a dividing point.

"We win when we are a party that works together, that we don't snipe at each other and that we're unified," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, House Minority Leader.

Republicans now turning their focus to the next 14 months, until the June Primary, calling the time critical. They are projecting enthusiasm and hoping to make their vision for Illinois' future resonate across the state.
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