Political Novice Leading GOP Field in Ill. Governor's Race

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 11:11 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A political newcomer is leading the field of Republican candidates seeking to challenge Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn this fall.

Bruce Rauner, 58, a private-equity investor who his financing his own campaign, is leading four challengers to the Democratic governor, The Wall Street Journal reports. He is seen as a one of the best chances for Republicans to win Illinois this fall.

His platform includes hammering Quinn on the state's poor economy and high unemployment. Rauner also pledges to clean up the state's government after the 2011 conviction of Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

Quinn, 65, became governor in January 2009 after Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office by a 59-0 vote of the Illinois State Senate. He was elected to a full term the following year.

Rauner is also financing a separate campaign to put term limits for state lawmakers on the November ballot, while proposing a similar limit on governors, the Journal reports.

"It will be eight years and out for everybody in the government, ripping out that corruption and self-dealing that has been going on for decades," he told the Journal after a GOP candidates' debate earlier this week.

A native of suburban Chicago, Rauner is a Harvard MBA who spent most of his career at GTCR, a private-equity firm that services midsize companies. He eventually became chairman and reported income of more than $53 million in 2012, the year he left the company, the Journal reports.

Rauner has so far spent more than $5 million of his own money on his campaign — primarily through television ads — and has raised an additional $8 million, the Journal reports.

The visibility has apparently worked, with Rauner garnering 40 percent support in a Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll earlier this month. The total was more than his top two GOP rivals combined, the Tribune reports.

State Sen. Bill Brady, whom Quinn narrowly defeated in 2010, finished with 20 percent among the 600 registered voters surveyed, while Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford ended with 13 percent. State Sen. Kirk Dillard had 11 percent.

The Republican primary is scheduled for March 18.

But Rauner's wealth and inexperience has been targeted by his rivals and other groups, according to news reports. In the debate earlier this week, his rivals accused Rauner of being naïve on how things run in the state capital, Springfield, and likened him to President Barack Obama, who has been under fire his executive orders.

“He doesn’t know what it’s like to make the legislature work together,” Brady charged, according to the Tribune. “Look at the catastrophe that’s created in Washington, D.C., with Barack Obama dictating by executive order.

"Mr. Rauner thinks he can do that in Springfield because he doesn’t have the experience."

Rauner dismissed his opponents as "career politicians."

"The attacks against me are coming fast and furious because we’re winning and because we have a message that scares the status quo in Springfield," Rauner said. "With all due respect to Mr. Dillard as well as my other opponents, they have been part of the problem in Springfield for decades."

In addition, unions are spending over $2 million via a political action committee that is challenging Rauner's private-equity years in TV ads

"There's more to Bruce Rauner than he is spending his millions to tell us," Michael Murray, a spokesman for Illinois Freedom PAC, told the Journal.

Rauner's ties to Chicago's Democratic mayors have also brought scrutiny, the Journal reports.

A major campaign donor to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, he is friends with current Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The mayor also worked with Rauner when GTCR bought a security business when the mayor worked at Wasserstein & Co., the Journal reports.

A spokeswoman for Emanuel told the Journal that the pair had not spoken since Rauner announced his candidacy and that the mayor supported Quinn.

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