Notable Illinois Republicans to skip convention; security beefed up

Monday, July 18, 2016
GOP convention starts Monday
The Republican National Convention starts on Monday.

CLEVELAND (WLS) -- Many notable Illinois Republicans are skipping this year's GOP convention this week, including Gov. Bruce Rauner who has treated Trump comments as toxic and opted to steer clear.

In addition to Rauner, other missing GOPs will be former Gov. Jim Edgar, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, Comptroller Leslie Munger and North Shore Congressman Bob Dold.

Kirk is even running an ad trumpeting his anti-Trumpness, which states "Mark Kirk bucked his party to say Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief."

Northwest suburban Rep. Peter Roskam may be the highest profile Illinois Republican who is attending the convention.

Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider will chair the state's delegation, while other's such as Congressman Adam Kinzinger and former gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard have said they'll be in Cleveland for some meetings, but may not even set foot on the convention floor.

"Very few elected officials or prominent Republicans are attending the convention, with good reason: Donald Trump," said Pat Brady, former Illinois GOP party chairman. "Seven in 10 suburban voters disapprove of him. Why would you want to be seen with him? That to me is the damage he's done to the Republican party."

State Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, said he's most interested in is party unity.

He concedes that Trump wasn't his first choice. He was Marco Rubio support, however, Fortner said there's no chance he'd skip the convention in protest.

"The convention is a good chance to see our different parts going to come together, I hope they do and that's one reason I'm going to be a part of that," Fortner said.

In an unusual move, Trump volunteers were asking delegates to sign a pledge that they will vote for Trump on nomination night. On Monday, Trump's wife, Melania Trump, and Willie Robertson, star of the "Duck Dynasty" show will be speaking.

Monday's theme will be "Make America Safe Again," and focus on national security and immigration.

Two former Republican presidents, two of the most recent GOP nominees and most of Trumps' former opponents are skipping the convention as well. However, organizers said it's not about the establishment, it's about the grassroots supporters.


At this year's Republican National Convention, part of the story is all about who won't be there.

Typically at a national political convention, it's fun to talk about and spy all the luminaries who are there.

But at this year's Republican National Convention, part of the story is all about who won't be there.

We've never seen anything like this before.

Former President George H. W. Bush won't be in attendance. Nor will his son, Bush 43.

The last two republican nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, aren't coming.

The governor of the host state of Ohio, and former rival, John Kasich, will pass.

One of the no-shows is Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) who's in a tough re-election fight against Democrat Katie McGinty.

And the list goes on.

Pennsylvania Congressmen from our area, including Ryan Costello, Mike Fitzpatrick and Joseph Pitts, are not coming.

Then there are representatives Charlie Dent of the Lehigh Valley and Pat Meehan in Delaware County - neither are going.

So is it all about Trump?

"I'm not going to go out there for a coronation. I feel very strongly the incendiary comments that have been made over these many months, combined with a lack of policy specificity, have caused concern for me.

"I'm never going to be supporting Hillary Clinton under any circumstances, but at the same time, I just haven't been able to cross the Rubicon in terms of supporting the presumptive nominee," said Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.).

"Well I'm not currently ready to do that," said Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) when asked if he endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States.

"I am hoping to be able to hear more. I'm not going to be supporting Hillary Clinton. My guess is he's got the skill set. Whether he takes that and turns it into a temperament I want to see. I'm concerned with some of the rhetoric now. I'm not particularly pleased with it to this point," added Meehan.

The convention has other problems because of no-shows, corporate no-shows.

Motorola, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Apple are part of the contingent that donated big bucks to the GOP convention four years ago.

This year, they and many others have scaled back or are keeping their cash in their pockets.

And right now, reports say the RNC is $6 million short.


Cleveland authorities are also making security changes in light of the police shooting in Baton Rouge, La.

Steel fencing, beefed up police, snow plow barricades and security check points are all in place to keep the Republican National Convention safe.

But with guns a legal accessory in Ohio, as well as protesters and 50,000 delegates and visitors sharing the streets, people are on edge.

"There are conditions to open carry, which means you can't have open carry if you are brandishing it or pointing or threatening that kind of thing," said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. "But the difference is the intensity of the moment, so it's just an added thing you have to deal with."

Around the Quicken Loans Arena, a 1.7-square-mile event zone, carrying a gun, but not a tennis ball or a can of hairspray, is ok. In a narrower secure zone around the arena firearms are off limits.

Illinois's delegation are taking it in stride.

"We've got thousands of FBI, secret service, police here to protect us at the convention," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "I am looking forward to excitement inside the center. I don't' want to see excitement outside."

Boisterous protests are expected, but in Cleveland, only small ones were out oN Sunday. One arrest was made.

And at their hotel, the Illinois contingent picked up their Trump hats, pins and swag and were ready for anything.

"Anything can happen if a gunshot goes off so that is something to be concerned about, but I don't think it should be overly concerning," said state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights.

WPVI-TV contributed to this report.