NORMAL (MCT) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., didn't expect to be on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday morning. He didn't even expect to be in Washington, D.C.
Durbin had committed to appear at the McLean County Democratic Party Fundraiser on Sunday in the Prairie Room at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University in Normal. However, due to the partial government shutdown, Durbin informed local party leaders Saturday that he would be unable to make the trip. Instead, he called during the dinner to send his regrets about having to cancel.
"I would rather be anywhere but here in Washington," he told a crowd of about 120 attendees at the luncheon. "But I am stuck here, and we have a pretty awful situation, here."
Durbin said the government shutdown will begin to affect more and more people the longer it continues.
"It's a ripple effect, and already 800,000 employees at the federal level have been directly affected and it is going to get worse for our citizens," he said. "I just think it's an outrage that we are in this situation."
Durbin said in order to make major changes, Democrats across the country, and particularly in Illinois, must make their voices heard in the 2014 midterm elections.
"The next election is critically important," he said. "It's all about the turnout and it is a big election for our state."
Durbin criticized Republicans for creating the shutdown, and singled out U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, (R-Taylorville). The 13th Congressional District race, where Davis now sits, will be extremely important to Illinois, Durbin said. Two Democratic hopefuls, University of Illinois physicist George Gollin and retired Edwardsville judge Ann Callis, were both in attendance at the luncheon.
Local party leaders said they were disappointed that Durbin was unable to make the trip in person, but were pleased he was able to participate in the fundraiser.
"It's about unity and getting our message out there," said McLean County Democratic Party Chairman John Fenn. "Certainly the government shutdown is the major issue in politics right now, but we can't just focus on that. Everything else still needs to be taken care of and in addition to the shutdown, we are discussing immigration reform, the national debt and other matters that are important to our party."
The dinner also served to recognize Illinois State University senior Laura Tallon as the recipient of the 2013-2014 Baldini Scholarship. Tallon, a Bloomington High School graduate, plans to get her master's degree in social work at ISU.
(c)2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services