It's Rauner vs. Quinn in hot IL governor's race
Running a classic "outsider" primary campaign, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner won the GOP nomination for Illinois governor. He will face incumbent Pat Quinn in the November election.
Significantly, Rauner, who spent $6 million of his own money on the race, won all the suburban collar counties outside of Chciago - a feat that should worry Governor Quinn. Rauner's nearest competitor, Pat Dillard, was endorsed by several state employee unions. But in a sign that perhaps the people of Illinois are ready for significant changes, Rauner's promise that he will take on the public unions appeared to resonate with voters.
Quinn is highly unpopular - even with Democrats. Two years ago, he pushed through a 67% increase in business taxes that drove thousands of companies out of the state. Illinois finances are still a joke (some businesses are still owed money from 2010), and his "pension reform" bill is acknowledged to be too little, too late.
But Rauner has made a few missteps of his own, including first saying that he wanted to cut the minimum wage and then endorsing an increase. And like Mitt Romney, his personal wealth is a target that Quinn plans to fire at from now until the election.
In fact, as John Kass points out, the race will be all about class warfare:
It is a campaign that probably should have been waged years ago, but politicians were happy to buy the support of public-sector unions with tax dollars.
Now taxpayers are squeezed and businesses are leaving, taking jobs with them. Cops, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are stuck between two opposing political gravitational fields:
Promises from their union leaders and establishment politicians that can't be kept, and businesses already leaving Illinois.
"It's going to be ugly, and by Labor Day people won't even want to turn on their TVs because of all the ads," said a senior Illinois Democrat, who thinks Pat Quinn has only one route to re-election. "He's got to turn it into a class war. What else does he have to talk about?"
Rauner will be demonized. The wealthy hedge fund manager has dared to threaten the power of the public employee unions that wag the government dog. And Quinn casts himself as the people's champion.
Labor will demand Rauner's demonization, as will the national Democratic Party. Look for President Barack Obama to campaign in Illinois, and play his Mitt Romney card. Whether it will work on Rauner or not, I don't know, but he'll play it.
The national Democrats have already decided on class war as their strategy for the midterm elections. It beats talking about the disasters of Obamacare.
So demonizing Rauner — using the template already set out by the public unions who backed GOP rival Kirk Dillard — is the game plan.
Rauner is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He has more houses than you can count on one hand. He's a hunter, a fisherman, he rides a Harley and he drops his "g's" in his public statements, something he probably didn't learn at Dartmouth.
But for all the "g" dropping, Rauner is one of the oligarchs who see the problem clearly. The money is gone.
Quinn, meanwhile, is no longer the hapless Gov. Jell-O of my earlier columns. Now he has razor-sharp elbows. A class war is just what he needs.
But he's also the governor of a state that is drowning in debt and has unsustainable public pensions. The alliance between the politicians and public-sector unions has created an untenable situation:
Rauner would do well to emulate Governor Walker from next door Wisconsin in dealing with public unions. But as powerful as labor is in Wisconsin, it is moreso in Illinois. Plus, Illinois is one of the bluest of blue states and running the table on public unions as Walker did in Wisconsin is a far greater challenge in Illinois given the makeup of the legislature and the power centers tipped north from Springfield toward Chicago.
But he's got to beat Quinn first. As unpopular as he is, the incumbent will have many advantages as labor nationwide pulls out all the stops to prevent a Rauner victory. The key for any Democrat is to come out of Cook County on election day with at least 58% of that vote to offset the sizable GOP advantage downstate. How much enthusiasm Chicago Democrats have for a guy who has presided over a disaster of an economy while fiddling with public employee pensions remains to be seen.
As for Rauner, he's a novice campaigner and must avoid mistakes like those he made in the primary. And he has to address the issue of his wealth head on. And do it soon. Quinn already unveiled a 30 second attack ad last night initiating the class warfare themes he will run on .
Republicans have been shut out of the governor's office in Illinois for decade. Rauner represents their best chance in years to flip the governor's mansion the Republican's way.