On the last day of the Democratic National Convention, Illinois delegates awoke early to attend a breakfast that featured speakers such as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Each spoke about how important it is for delegates to ensure the people in their hometowns come out to vote.
“We have to work on three things when we all go home: turnout, turnout and turnout,” Schakowsky said.
She told delegates to reach out to all the people Donald Trump has insulted.
“We can start with women, and all minorities, and certainly all immigrants, all the LGBT people and people with disabilities… we can get everybody registered. It is our job to win this election,” she urged.
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As the DNC came to a close, Illinois delegates were solidly against Trump. Many of the conversations between delegates on Day 4 were focused on bringing the messages from this week back home to Illinois.
“I feel as if the people that have spoken this week have really driven the message of unity home, and that’s what we have to do at this point. We have to go home and be unified against the Republicans,” said Mia Mayberry, a Clinton delegate from the 17th Congressional District of Illinois.
One Republican who the Illinois Democrats want to unify themselves against is current Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Susana Mendoza, the first woman ever to be elected to the office of the city clerk of Chicago, is currently running for state comptroller. “It’s the most important office that no one has ever heard of,” she said. The comptroller controls the state’s checkbook, and with Rauner in office and a budget yet to be passed, money is a critical issue for Illinoisans.
“I’m going to push back on this anti-people, anti-Illinois agenda that Gov. Rauner has championed. I will be an independent, truth-telling fiscal watchdog, not a lapdog to Rauner,” Mendoza promised.
With the little money that is left in the state’s budget, Mendoza wants to prioritize it appropriately.
John Willard, a Sanders delegate from the 2nd Congressional District, said he would like to see a state budget that includes spending on rebuilding infrastructure.
“Without that money being spent on maintaining it, it’s leaving not just my family, but a whole lot of other Illinoisan families in the ditch. Good, skilled craftsmen are out doing low-skill jobs just to make a living. It’s hurting our whole society,” he said.
Willard, a union iron-worker and longtime resident of the 2nd District, was inspired to become a delegate for the first time because of the financial stress within his family. His granddaughter recently graduated from high school and has been seeking out odd jobs to try and save up enough money to go to college. His son-in-law was laid off from an iron-worker’s job and has been struggling to keep food on the table.
“I want to spend what little energy I have left in this life fighting for my granddaughter and for the entire younger generation,” said Willard. “To be involved in this election is a small way to ensure a better world for them.”
Although Willard said he was disappointed by Sanders’ loss, he believes Hillary is a great politician. “I’m just a little more left than she is,” he chuckled.
Willard agreed with the message of unity and the importance of standing up against Trump, but he does not believe four days is enough time to actualize the message.
“It’s a little unrealistic to believe that in the short time we’re spending here that unity is going to be really obvious. It’s going to take a little while, but the seeds have been sown and it’s our job to make sure they bear fruit,” Willard said.
Illinois delegates hope they can ensure that people vote and ensure that Democrats continue pushing back against Rauner.
“Rauner is not even a Republican, he’s like a Trump,” Willard said.
Karen Yarbrough, Cook County recorder of deeds and registrar of titles, addressed the Illinois delegation Thursday morning. She said she has a solution to “our governor problem.” The solution? Voting for Hillary Clinton and getting “more Democrats in office.”
And as the delegates look to the future, they also reflect on this past week.
“It’s been a week full of fantastic speakers, and a great message of unity and moving this country forward,” Mayberry said. “You can’t really understand what it’s like to be here and participate in this convention until you’ve experienced it for yourself.”
Jacqueline Collins, a Clinton delegate from the 16th District of Illinois, has had an incredible time in Philadelphia.
“It’s phenomenal. The people are so hospitable. I’ve been getting so involved and engaged in this great event, in this great city,” Collins said.
Collins commented on the disruptive, massive protests that were staged by the Bernie or Bust supporters on Monday and Tuesday.
“You know, this country was formed by protest and rebellion. So I admire the Bernie-or-Bust individuals for their passion,” she said. “But if they believe in their leader, they’ll vote for Hillary. A no vote is a vote for Trump.”
But Dr. Pam Gronemeyer of Glen Carbon, a Sanders delegate from the 13th Congressional District, does not take kindly to the implication that Sanders supporters are simply “following a leader.”
“It’s not a culture of personality, it’s a culture of the message. And the message is that we’re going to create a revolution that will change the country,” Gronemeyer said.
And above all, that is what the DNC hoped to accomplish this week: to unify the Democrats behind Hillary Clinton and ensure that Donald Trump will not win the general election.
Editor’s note: Taylor Schwartz is a journalism student at Temple University. The Journalism Department at Temple is partnering with McClatchy newspapers, including the News-Democrat, to provide locally-tailored coverage of the Democratic National Convention.