Illinois House Speaker Emanuel 'Chris" Welch gives the keynote address at the 6th annual Rock Island County Democrat Unity Dinner at the Stern Center in downtown Rock Island on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

Illinois House speaker gives address at Rock Island County Democrats Unity Dinner

Rock Island County Democrats say they are ready to fight for democracy and win big this November.

At the forefront of the Democrats argument is that numerous rights — human and civil rights — are on the line again this election cycle. The biggest right on the ballot, Democrats said Thursday night, is women’s right to reproductive health.

The sixth Annual Unity Dinner Thursday evening, hosted by the RICo Democrats, featured Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch as the keynote speaker in front of a fired up crowd saying Illinois is ready unite, organize and win.

“It takes us working together to make big things happen…we are getting these big things done,” Welch said. “We are lifting up middle class families… helping them cut the cost of prescription drugs… cut the cost of groceries… cut millions of dollars in junk fees.” 

The crowd roared to life numerous times, clapping for Welch and everything he said Illinois had accomplished, from replenishing the rainy day fund to the nine credit upgrades Illinois has received. To win big this November, he said, Democrats need to reelect Congressional Rep. Eric Sorensen as part of gaining the majority in the U.S. House and reelect State Rep. Gregg Johnson. 

“We need to keep building up Democratic majorities in Washington and Springfield for communities all across (the state),” Welch said. 

Welch’s speech also took digs at Republicans and the former president and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, painting a picture of how things will go south if Trump is reelected to the Oval Office. Specifically, Welch emphasized women’s reproductive health and the right to choose are on the line. 

A women’s reproductive health, he said, is between a women and her doctor. 

Numerous bills relating to reproductive rights have been signed into law in the state.

“Everyone now looks to Illinois as a beacon of reproductive freedom,” Welch said. 

Welch also spoke about when Johnson took a moment on House floor in 2023 to share his story regarding his mother, who died due to a medical condition in a pregnancy she was not legally able to terminate. The story, Welch said, moved people to tears.

Johnson’s mother, Shirley Hunter Johnson, was pregnant with her fourth child but passed away in 1972 due to severe preeclampsia. The condition made it risky to carry to term and due to the lack of abortion access in pre-Roe v. Wade, she was not able to terminate the pregnancy.