PEORIA: Guiliani making Peoria visit three days before primary

Karen McDonald

Showing a continued commitment to win the state, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Tazewell County Lincoln Day Dinner on Feb. 2, just three days before the primary election.

Tazewell County Republican Party Chairwoman Demetra DeMonte, a Giuliani delegate, said she received the confirmation on Tuesday. As the news started to spread, the event, being held in the ballroom at the Embassy Suites hotel and convention center, sold an additional 100 tickets on Tuesday alone for a total thusfar of 630 guests.

"We are known for wonderful, big events and I let it be known that if he would come I would do my very best to get a huge crowd," DeMonte said. "He’s spent a lot of time in Chicago, so that’s why we really pushed to have him come down here. Central Illinois is the place to be."

This will be the former New York mayor’s first trip to central Illinois since announcing his candidacy, though he has spent time campaigning in the state. He was in the Chicago area within the past two weeks.

"The attention (Republican presidential candidates) are showing to Illinois is indicative that they realize that Illinois is going to play a pivotal role in deciding who the next Republican presidential nominee is," said state GOP spokesman Lance Trover.

A Giuliani spokesman could not be reached for comment.

DeMonte said she’s been pressing for Giuliani’s appearance for six months. "These things don’t just happen," she said.

The East Peoria venue can hold up to 1,200 guests. DeMonte said the Tazewell Lincoln Day Dinner typically garners about 450 guests.

"We’ve sold out the event the past four years. So this year, with construction of new Embassy Suites, we have lots more room," DeMonte said.

Tazewell County Board Chairman Jim Unsicker said he was "taken aback" when he heard the news. "It’s a national candidate, of course I’m excited. It boosts the party locally and it certainly will boost our Lincoln Day Dinner," he said.

Giuliani is one of nine GOP presidential hopefuls.

Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner starting at roughly 7 p.m. Tickets are $55 each or $550 for a table of 10.

"It’s probably going to be your least expensive presidential ticket you’re going to get," DeMonte said.

Anyone interested in attending can send a check payable to Tazewell County Republicans, 1000 Court St., Pekin, IL 61554.

Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or kmcdonald@pjstar.com.