Rep. Bailey takes gubernatorial campaign to Kewanee

Susan DeVilder
submitted photo
About 100 area residents turned out to meet Illinois State Rep. Darren Bailey at The Stables Saturday. The event was hosted by Jeanna and Gary Moore. Food was provided for the event by The Station in Kewanee.

By 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, almost 100 area residents had arrived at The Stables on the edge of Kewanee for a meet-and-greet event with Illinois State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), who recently announced a bid to run for governor. 

Missing from the meet and greet event, however, was the guest of honor, who had been delayed. Bailey's wife, Cindy, hurried out to the Kewanee Municipal Airport to pick him up. 

At a table set up near the front entrance, Kewanee Mayor Gary Moore and his wife, Jeanna, registered guests who turned out to hear what Bailey had to say. 

The wife of the Kewanee mayor, Jeanna Moore said she was an early supporter of Bailey after they met the state representative about a year ago at a gathering and were invited to have dinner with him afterward.

“His beliefs were very similar to our own,” Jeanna Moore said, and after the initial meeting, everything just culminated from there. 

“I feel very strongly that he’s a devout Christian and he could do some good. He’s got a good following with the Democratic Party as well, because he wants to make a difference,” she said. 

The relationship forged early on between Bailey and the Moores has led to a position within Bailey’s campaign for Jeanna. The Kewanee couple not only hosted the meet and greet event in Kewanee, but Jeanna is acting as campaign coordinator for the Henry County area. Her future plans include a possible fundraiser for Bailey sometime this summer. 

While the Illinois Gubernatorial Republican primary is still almost a year away, Bailey is using weekends to crisscross the state. During the week, Bailey is doing the job his constituents elected him to do, but his weekends are spent making his case to the public. 

“It’s really busy right now,” said Bailey, after arriving at the event. “I’m taking advantage of the weekends. There’s a lot of people that want to meet with me,” he said, peering out at the maskless crowd that had assembled to do just that. “I want to listen to the concerns and ideas of the people across Illinois.”

Kewanee wasn’t even Bailey’s last stop for the night, he said. He was scheduled for an event in Moline later before heading back home for church on Sunday and back to Chicago on Monday. 

It’s not just small venues in rural parts of the state where Bailey is hoping to find support. He’s spent quite a bit of time in the Chicago area, where he’s been pleased with the  turnout. 

Last year in the early days of the pandemic, Bailey made national headlines for refusing to wear a mask on the first day of the Illinois General Assembly’s special pandemic session. The first order of business was a vote that lawmakers must wear a mask. The rule passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. That same support was shown when in an 81-27 vote, Illinois lawmakers voted to kick Bailey out of the session for his refusal to wear a mask. Some fellow Republicans saw the move as “political theatrics” when there were more pressing issues for lawmakers, but others rallied behind Bailey's defiance.

It’s an incident of which Bailey said he has no regrets, citing social distancing rules and desk spacing as safety measures that were already in place. Bailey said he had no problem putting on a mask when he was away from his desk. 

As a newly-elected state representative, Bailey said he was seeking two simple measures during that session that included asking for 24 hours to read amended legislation and a measure that would require a committee hearing for any written legislation that had bipartisan support. 

“I felt frustrated at the process. At that time I felt like I needed to represent the people. I am vocal,” Bailey said, admitting that he returned to work  the next day with a mask. 

Bailey also addressed a March editorial by Jim Leach that criticized Bailey’s desire to amend the Illinois constitution to do away with a provision that “guarantees that state, municipalities and school districts honor the commitments made about their employees’ retirement income.” Leach blasted Bailey for his claim that removing that provision would actually protect the pensions.

Attendees of Rep. Darren Bailey's rally at The Stables Saturday were treated with a spread provided by The Station restaurant.