Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton rallied McLean County Democrats at the inaugural Obama Legacy Dinner in Normal on Wednesday night.
Stratton said Illinois Democrats have to keep an eye on 2020 after a successful first legislative session for Gov. J.B. Pritzker as he had much of his policy agenda passed.
“We have a job right here in Illinois and that’s to make sure that our Democratic values are uplifted, that our Democratic message goes forward in a strong fashion and that we make sure keep our eyes on what needs to happen in the 2020 election year,” Stratton said.
Stratton referred to President Donald Trump in terms Pritzker has frequently used to describe him: “racist and homophobic and misogynistic." She said Illinois Democrats must work to uplift their values.
Stratton and Barack Obama share a political history. She campaigned for him when he ran for president. Stratton was the first to get a campaign endorsement from Obama during his second term in the White House when she was running for an Illinois House seat.
“He’s somebody that I certainly admire, certainly admired his level of integrity and leadership,” she said. “Even now as lieutenant governor, there are many times that I think about he and his wife, Michelle Obama, as I think about the way that I approach being an elected official.”
Stratton wants to give women a greater voice in Illinois politics. She chairs the new Illinois Council on Women and Girls to help address wage disparities, sexual violence, health care and other issues.
Stratton said the group will also look to help specific groups, including veterans, the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities.
“One of the things I was excited about is we had – I don’t want to call it a debate, but a spirited conversation around how we can’t just say women and think we are covering everyone,” Stratton said.
The council plans to deliver a report to the legislature with policy recommendations by the end of the year.
Nikita Richards of Bloomington, a former candidate for McLean County clerk, is one of 22 women serving on the council. Richards previously served on Pritzker’s transition team assisting on veterans’ issues.
Stratton said the Pritzker administration continues to push for more gun control, following the latest round of mass shootings. He has failed to pass a ban on large-capacity magazines, something nine other states have done.
Stratton didn’t discuss specifics, but said Washington needs to deliver more gun reforms.
“It’s almost become cliché. We don’t want any more thoughts and prayers as we continue to see these mass shootings take place on a regular basis,” Stratton said.
Illinois has included $420 million though Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital plan to expand broadband access to rural areas across the state. Stratton chairs the governor’s Rural Affairs Council. She said she’s been traveling much of central and southern Illinois to seek solutions to help bridge the digital divide.
“We want young people to come back to some of these towns who might leave and go to college and think ‘There’s nothing for me to do when I go back,’” Stratton said. “We want them to see that as a viable opportunity."
An estimated 340 guests attended the dinner, which was previously known as the Baldini Dinner. Proceeds benefit two scholarships: one to an Illinois State University student, another to a veteran attending Heartland Community College.
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