Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner narrowly won his party’s primary Tuesday night as he continues his bid to become the Illinois’ next governor.
The Associated Press called the victory only after more than 94 percent of the vote was cast, with Rauner holding a lead of slightly more than two percentage points over state Sen. Kirk Dillard.
He will take on incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has held the office since 2009, in the November election. His administration has overseen tax increases and the resulting flight of businesses from the state. Quinn easily saw off his only challenger, activist Tio Hardiman in the Democratic primary.
Speaking after his victory Rauner branded Quinn "a failure," adding "we're going to get him gone this November."
He said Quinn has chased employers out of Illinois, raised taxes and driven up unemployment and the best way to get people working again is to run Illinois like a business.
The choice for voters in November is "between failure of the past and a new day," Rauner added.
"We started off over a year ago, nobody knew who we were, nobody gave us a chance," Rauner added, according to NBC Chicago
. "But you know what, we worked our tails off because we love this state and we want to go to work for you."
He posted a simple message on Twitter after his victory:
Political consultant Doug Schoen told Newsmax the head of R8 Capital Partners private equity firm has a "very good chance" of success in the general election.
"This is a key race for Republicans for a pick-up in the gubernatorial race," Schoen said. "I'd make Rauner the clear favorite going into November."
Illinois tops the list of governors' mansions the GOP wants to pick up and Rauner, who has never held elected office could be the right pick. "Republicans, given the unpopularity of the party, are looking for a few fresh faces," said Schoen. "It doesn't surprise me that he won a slightly narrower victory than the polls may have suggested.
Rauner, 57, spent $14 million during his campaign to represent the GOP. He has millions more to spend on the general election.
"Bruce has the same business background as Mitt Romney and he knows how to fix Illinois," veteran conservative activist Jim Bassett told Newsmax.
"And his long private-sector support of charter schools is what we need."
At the beginning of February, a Chicago Tribune poll showed Rauner with 40 percent of the vote. He was trailed by 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee and state Sen. Bill Brady at 20 percent, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford at 13 percent, and Dillard at 11 percent.
But Rauner’s support started to decrease this month, with the Tribune showing he was at 36 percent in early March. That same poll showed Dillard had climbed to 23 percent. Attack ads coming from a group that supports Dillard were partially to blame.
Tuesday’s election turned a two-candidate fight with Brady and Rutherford trailing badly and Rauner narrowly emerged as the victor.
Rauner announced his intention to run for governor last June after spending four months exploring the idea. He has vowed to take on the economic woes Illinois finds itself in.
There’s also the corruption that has plagued the state government in recent years. Four of the state's last eight governors have gone to prison including Democrat Rod Blagojevich,
who was convicted for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat after he became president.
Rauner favors term limits and would like to see them implemented.
"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," The Washington Post
quoted Rauner as saying in a recent story.
Rauner also opposes unions, which has alienated him from many voters and groups across the state.
"I believe government union power — unchecked — where it’s financially power influencing our politicians is what’s led to our pension problems," Rauner said in a recent New York Times
"It’s led to our debt, deficits, our spending problems. And it’s hurting workers in Illinois."
Voters expressed their support for Rauner after casting their votes on Tuesday.
"Rauner is going to be a bull in a china shop; we need a bull," said Tom Sommer, a 57-year-old real estate broker from the Chicago suburb Hinsdale. "It's not going to be more of the same.”
"In the last 10 years, things have gotten really bad [in the state],” said Marty Johns, 48. "Throw out all the Democrats in Chicago. All of our money goes up there while southern Illinois gets the crumbs."
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