A polarizing presence

Kellyanne Conway to speak at GOP's Lincoln Day dinner

click to enlarge A polarizing presence
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Kellyanne Conway

Sangamon County Republicans are paying Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to former President Donald Trump, $30,000 to speak at the Sangamon County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner.

Sangamon County GOP chair Dianne Barghouti Hartwick said so far more than 900 people have purchased the $125 tickets to eat at the dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m. May 3 at the Bank of Springfield Center.

"We think we will have more than 1,000 people attend," said Mark Hurley, who chaired the GOP committee that selected Conway.

"Kellyanne Conway is an extraordinary person in that she was the only campaign manager who is a woman to run a successful presidential campaign, and that, of course, was for President Trump," he said.

Barghouti Hartwick said since this is a fundraiser, it was important to select a speaker capable of attracting a large audience.

Hurley said Conway was one of 32 potential speakers his committee considered more than a year ago.

Former Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady said he believes Conway's fee is exorbitant. Worse yet, he said, the invitation is detrimental to Illinois Republicans.

"So long as the party is tied to Trump, we will never prevail in the Chicago suburbs and in the major metropolitan areas, which include places like Springfield and Bloomington. The party tying itself to Trump is just like putting rocks on and going to the bottom of the lake. We have got to move beyond that," he said.

Conway coined the term "alternative facts" while defending White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. She was also known for her tart tongue saying such things as, "The fact is that Hillary Clinton could not stand up to a cheating husband, so how in the world would she stand up to North Korea and some of our other enemies around the globe?"

Last month, she was interviewed by Manhattan prosecutors just weeks before Trump was indicted for his alleged role in the hush money payment to a porn star.

"She was a Trump apologist for some of his worst behavior," Brady said. "I've got a healthy respect for her as a political strategist. I mean, she stuck with the guy and got him elected and beat the supposedly unbeatable Hillary Clinton. So, I give her credit for that, but she's tied at the hip with Trumpism and that's just bad long term for the party."

Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter said, "I'm not a MAGA Republican, but I think she is a political strategist who will have interesting things to say."

He added the preference in choosing a speaker is to select a current major Republican officeholder but he added those individuals either had scheduling conflicts or charged too large of a speaker fee.

"So, we ended up with a professional speaker like Kellyanne Conway," he said.

Conway is hardly the first controversial Lincoln Day speaker. Some past speakers have included singer, hunter and gun-rights advocate Ted Nugent in 2012 and conservative commentator Candace Owens in 2021.

"I don't think Conway will be as controversial as Ted Nugent," Van Meter said.

Brady said it would have been wiser for the Sangamon GOP to have spent the $30,000 on getting more Republicans to cast absentee ballots.

But Barghouti Hartwick countered that Conway has proven to be an excellent draw for the fundraiser, which will assist various local GOP candidates.

Brady was not placated.

"It's just a bad, bad choice. And they will sell out, that's fine. But Kellyanne is going to be on the website for a long time," he said. "That does not motivate one independent voter or one voter that you need to persuade – outside of the hardcore Trumpians – to come vote Republican.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder is a staff writer at Illinois Times.

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