- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The latest on activities in Springfield as Democrats gather for their annual Democratic County Chairman’s Association brunch and Democrat Day festivities at the Illinois State Fair:

4:00 p.m.

Republicans are firing back at Illinois Democrats who took pot shots at them Thursday during the party’s annual gathering at the Illinois State Fair.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016. She criticized the freshman for a recent series of gaffes.

Kirk campaign manager Kevin Artl says “special interests” are backing Duckworth, but voters are “underwhelmed by her weak performance” and concerned about alleged ethics lapses.

Mike Schrimpf, a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Bruce Rauner, dismissed Democrats’ critique of the first-year Republican and his “attacks” on the middle class. Schrimpf says Illinois homeowners pay among the highest property taxes in the nation and family incomes have slipped during the decades Democrats have controlled the Legislature.


1:20 p.m.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie has criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner’s reductions in spending for autism services, epilepsy patients and other social services.

Lang spoke Thursday at the state fair’s Democrat Day. Rauner campaigned on a “turnaround agenda” for Illinois, but Lang says he’s pushing a “turn-back-the-clock agenda.”

The House deputy majority leader says the tide is turning in a summer-long struggle with Rauner over the state budget. He says “this is a battle we are going to win. We will not throw the middle class under the bus.”

Lang says labor - whose influence Rauner has sought to curb - is the “backbone of our party” and that Democrats have never been “as organized and energized” as they are now.


11:10 a.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth says she’s the right candidate to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016.

Duckworth spoke before the Democratic County Chairman’s Association on Thursday.

She poked fun at Kirk for being a last-minute no-show for Wednesday’s Republican festivities. Kirk’s campaign says he didn’t attend Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first Governor’s Day at the state fair because he was being briefed on President Obama’s proposed Iran deal.

Duckworth says: “I don’t blame him because I don’t want to be seen with the governor either.”

Duckworth also criticized Kirk for a series of recent gaffes.

Former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp is formally announcing her candidacy for the Democratic nomination Thursday, setting up a March primary.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee described Illinois Democrats as in “total disarray.”


10:40 a.m.

Illinois Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan says Democrats are engaged in an “epic struggle” with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and need to stand firm.

Madigan spoke Thursday morning at a meeting of the state’s Democratic county chairmen.

Madigan says Rauner “thinks that Illinois budget-making should be used and leveraged to bring down wage rates all across the state.”

Rauner has repeatedly blasted Madigan and other Democrats for being unwilling to compromise on pro-business changes he wants. Rauner says his priorities will spur economic growth and grow jobs.

The fight has led to a stalemate over the state budget.

Senate President John Cullerton says Democrats are open to compromise. He adds: “We are willing to work with Gov. Rauner but we don’t work for Gov. Rauner.”


10:15 a.m.

Democrats vying to be Illinois’ next comptroller are criticizing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s handling of the budget and attacks on labor unions.

State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza are seeking the Democratic nomination for the job of controlling the state’s checkbook.

Biss says Rauner is “focused like a laser on destroying unions, shrinking the middle class and pushing down everybody’s paycheck.”

Mendoza says if elected she won’t be Rauner’s “wingman” on hurtful budgets.

The comment is a reference to Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger, who described herself Wednesday as Rauner’s budgetary “wingman.”

Rauner appointed Munger after then-Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka died. Munger is seeking her first full term in 2016.

Rauner has pinned blame for Illinois’ budget mess on Democrats he says have overspent for years.


9:50 a.m.

Former federal prosecutor and Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp is making her bid for U.S. Senate official.

The Chicago Democrat says she’ll formally announce her candidacy during Democrat Day festivities at the Illinois State Fair on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Zopp said Cook County Democrats’ decision Wednesday not to endorse a challenger to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in the March primary is “great news” for her campaign.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth also is seeking the party’s nomination. She’s had the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Zopp says an open primary means “Washington insiders won’t be telling the voters of Cook County who they should choose.”

Democrats see winning Kirk’s seat as key to taking back control of the U.S. Senate in 2016.


This item has been corrected to show Duckworth has received the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, not the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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