Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign stopped in Peoria today to meet with labor leaders as part of a four-day tour to drum up support and officially launch her campaign's presence in Illinois. Clinton campaign officials say the New York Senator will not concede Illinois to Obama, although her representatives say they are not kidding themselves and realize Obama is the state's favorite son.
Hillary Clinton campaign officials met with labor leaders in Peoria on Wednesday as part of a four-day downstate tour to drum up support and officially launch her presidential campaign presence in Illinois.
However, because of an earlier Feb. 5 primary election, Illinois will not get as much candidate time from the New York senator had the primary remained in March, according her campaign.
Clinton already has stopped in Chicago a handful of times and is expected to make appearances in other cities before February, although no specific events are yet scheduled in Peoria, said Kevin O’Keefe, a campaign official.
"We’re not kidding ourselves. We know Sen. Barack Obama is the favorite son of Illinois and almost all the elected leadership and political leadership in the state is with Sen. Obama and that we’re kind of running an insurgent campaign in Illinois, but it’s kind of fun to do that," said O’Keefe, who also was a coordinator for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and served as a deputy assistant under President Clinton from 1993 to 1997.
Hillary Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago area, has brushed aside suggestions of surrendering the state to Obama.
"She’s got a lot of support in Illinois. People have known her for a long time," O’Keefe said. "She has carved out a national record as a First Lady and as a senator and people are very supportive of her positions on issues and her candidacy."
Obama representatives could not be reached for comment.
Campaign officials met with laborers and others at the Peoria Labor Temple to line-up petition drives and rally support. They weren’t necessarily asking for support, but simply making courtesy stops to make their presence known, said Marty Helfers, Associate Director for the West Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council.
Bob Markham, business manager with the Operating Engineers Union, said he’s personally glad Clinton is not letting Illinois go without a fight.
"If she didn’t stop here, people would think as though she wrote the area off. She isn’t writing off any area. She is going to try and convince us that she’s the best candidate," Markham said. "From my own view, she is. I would be very happy to have another president with the last name of Clinton who could give us eight more years like Bill (Clinton) did."
The campaign also made rounds in Springfield and DuQuoin and will hit Carbondale, Mt. Vernon, Decatur and Champaign later this week.
"This is the first time that we’re coming through here, waving the flag and meeting with people to talk about what needs to get done to have a state-wide presence for Clinton in Illinois," said Stacey Zolt Hara, a campaign volunteer. "This is not an anti-Obama campaign, it’s a pro-Clinton campaign and we just want to make sure that labor and Peoria is well-represented on our delegate slate."
Clinton currently is leading a CNN poll for the Democratic nomination with Obama trailing not far behind, although the two virtually are neck-and-neck in the Illinois race, according to several national polls.
Clinton has raised $1.7 million in Illinois, $13.8 million in New York and $62.5 million nationwide. Obama slightly trails national fundraising with $58.6 million.
In Illinois, Obama has raised more than $7 million and in New York, he has generated $5.9 million, according to the Federal Election Commission Website.
Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or email@example.com.