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All eyes on Peoria ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' Friday appearance at GOP dinner

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist.

The Illinois political world's attentions are shifting to the River City for just a moment as a prominent conservative stalwart and likely 2024 presidential contender swoops into town for a Republican rallying cry.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is trading barbs with Central Illinois Republicans ahead of the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' keynote appearance at the GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Peoria on Friday evening.

The governor blasted the "hateful agenda" of DeSantis, who is widely expected to announce his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination soon. The Republican-dominated Florida legislature recently passed a bill allowing DeSantis to keep his gubernatorial seat while running for president.

In a statement, Pritzker said DeSantis' career of "punching down and othering anyone" who stands against his so-called "petty tyranny" makes him a natural fit for the Lincoln Day Dinner co-hosted by the Peoria and Tazewell County Republican Central Committees.

The Tazewell County Republican Party called Pritzker a "progressively liberal Marxist Governor," and said the Democrat's agenda is exactly why they've invited DeSantis to speak.

Pritzker and the Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly have made a point of championing the protection and expansion of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights as neighboring conservative states crack down.

DeSantis and Pritzker have clashed in the past on issues ranging from COVID-19 policy to education.

DeSantis spoke at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Marathon County, Wisc. last weekend. Wisconsin Public Radio reported the governor delivered a campaign-style speech touting his conservative policy victories, and declaring that Florida is "the state where woke goes to die."

Progressive organizations plan to protest DeSantis' sold-out appearance at the Peoria Civic Center. The demonstrations are expected to include drag shows and pride flags in a not-so-subtle jab at the Florida governor's frequent targeting of the LGBTQ+ community as part of his broader focus on right-wing "culture war" issues.

A Peoria Police Department spokesperson said extra officers will be on hand during the event. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.