The date and place – if not the exact time – are set for presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to visit Springfield.

The date and place – if not the exact time – are set for presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to visit Springfield.

Sangamon County Republican Chairman Tony Libri said Monday that it is now confirmed that the party organization’s Lincoln Day Luncheon will be moved up this year to Feb. 2 so that guest speaker Giuliani will be able to address the crowd just three days before the Feb. 5 Illinois Primary.

The place, Libri said, is the Illinois Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. He characterized it as the “only building available” for a large crowd, with other events scheduled that day for the city’s major hotels and the downtown convention center.

The Saturday event will be at “lunchtime,” Libri said, though he wasn’t sure if the start time would be 11:30 a.m. or noon.

“We’re going to eat either before he gets there or after he leaves,” Libri said.

The Illinois Building – the one next to the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln near the fair’s Main Gate – will be able to seat up to 800 people, Libri said. The ticket price this year is $75, up from $65 a year ago. But Libri characterized the increase as “a one-time thing” designed to cover the cost of hosting a leading presidential candidate.

Libri said the party is accepting MasterCard and Visa to pay for the tickets. Information is available at Sangamon County GOP Headquarters at 528-6267.

The Lincoln Day dinner often draws big names, including then-presidential adviser Karl Rove last February.

Giuliani will be in friendly territory when he visits Springfield, as the Sangamon County GOP endorsed his presidential bid last month.

Despite the party endorsement, Libri called this year “unlike any other” in presidential politics, and he knows that some Sangamon County Republicans gave their support to other candidates before the party acted.

The two Republican members of Congress whose districts include parts of the county – John Shimkus of Collinsville and Ray LaHood of Peoria – are both running to be Republican National Convention delegates supporting U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona for president, for example.

“If they’ve already committed to someone, we will honor that,” Libri said in general of local Republicans. But he said the party is asking members who had not committed to anyone else previously to support Giuliani.

“We figure we win no matter what,” Libri said of the GOP presidential race. “All of them are good candidates.”

Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or