PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A record-breaking 1,200 attendees packed the Peoria Civic Center to hear from keynote speaker Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) at the annual Peoria/Tazewell County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner, an event billed as the largest Republican event in Illinois politics.

DeSantis hailed his achievements in Florida by fighting what he called “the woke mind virus.”

“We can’t have our society devolve into one where truth is optional and where merit and achievement don’t matter. We can never ever surrender to the woke mob. We’ve made the state of Florida the place where woke goes to die,” he said.

DeSantis said Republicans have fumbled elections in recent years and need to start winning again.

“Things are going in the wrong direction… but it could get a lot worse. We must reject culture of losing that has infected our party in recent years,” he said.

Florida’s “bold agenda and assertive leadership” was able to win over Hispanics, women and independents in the 2022 election. DeSantis said it’s a formula that needs to be adopted by the entire party because “the stakes are high.”

“When you’re governing, its not about entertainment. It’s not about building a brand. It’s not about virtue signaling on social media. It’s about winning and it’s about producing results. We have produced more results than anybody anywhere in the country,” he said.

Outside the Peoria Civic Center, a coalition of community organizers protested DeSantis’ appearance in Peoria to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“Illinois is one of the few states that has a lot of protections for LGBTQ folks. We are number one in the nation right now, and so we want to keep it that way and we want to make it known,” said Cassie Lucchesi, president of Peoria Proud.

The protestors said they do not agree with DeSantis’ policies in Florida and wanted to make a peaceful statement.

“We are protesting against hateful legislation from DeSantis in particular. We don’t want that here in Peoria. Hate has no place here and we want to have fun. This is a fun time,” said Marshall Seidel, co-founder of Peorian for Black Liberties.

DeSantis also touched on the importance of getting the southern border under control. Title 42, a COVID-era policy that expelled migrants, expired Thursday night.