SPRINGFIELD — The day before he is sworn in as Illinois' 42nd governor, Republican Bruce Rauner defended the prices of some inaugural events, saying he believes they fall within the range of past ticket costs.
In a brief chat with reporters at one of the capital city's major tourist destinations, the governor-elect did not specifically mention a $1,000-per-person, sold-out soiree at the Statehouse Sunday night, but said the $125 tickets to a Monday concert with Toby Keith were competitive with regular concert prices.
"We tried to keep the prices reasonable for the festivities, parties and dinners," the wealthy businessman said. "We hope everybody will come. The reality is that concert tickets for Toby Keith, they generally sell for that or more."
Rauner's comments came after he spent 90 minutes visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where he shook hands with supporters. His wife, Diana, later read a book to about a dozen children, with Rauner listening alongside.
The book, "Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers," tells the story of how an 11-year-old girl convinced Lincoln to grow what became his trademark beard.
Rauner called Lincoln "one of the greatest presidents," but said he had no plans to grow his own beard.
The Rauner family later gathered around the lifelike statues of the Lincoln family to take a "selfie."
Rauner proclaimed the picture "awesome," drawing chuckles from some of the 150 people who had come to see Illinois' next chief executive.
During the visit he crossed paths with another high-ranking museum visitor — Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat who had considered running for governor in the 2014 election. The two exchanged pleasantries and introduced their families.
Unlike Saturday, in which his aides rolled out a series of press releases outlining Rauner's picks for his administration and a list of donors who are paying for the privately funded events, Sunday was a day dedicated to revving up for Monday's capstone to an election season that saw him spend millions of his own fortune to wrest the seat from Democratic hands.
Rauner, who will be sworn in at a ceremony in downtown Springfield beginning at 11 a.m. Monday, said his inauguration marks a passing of the torch in Illinois, following his November defeat of Democrat Pat Quinn.
"It's a great time to celebrate," Rauner said. "The inauguration is a time, a new beginning, for all of the people of Illinois."