Gov. Bruce Rauner narrowly defeats Jeanne Ives in IL GOP primary
Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, the "Worst Republican Governor in America," narrowly survived a challenge from conservative upstart Jeanne Ives in the primary race for governor.
Rauner massively outspent Ives, $50 million to $4 million. But Ives's message resonated with conservative Illinois Republicans, who saw Rauner as a GOP governor who promotes Democratic policies.
Rauner had several bruising battles with the Democratic speaker of the Ill. house Mike Madigan. Time and again, including a two year-budget impasse, Madigan showed Rauner who is in charge of the state. Rauner eventually made a total surrender to Madigan, angering Republicans of every stripe.
With 87 percent of Illinois precincts reporting, unofficial returns had Rauner with 51.6 percent of the vote to 48.4 percent for Ives. Rauner carried the city and suburban Cook County, but the candidates were neck and neck in the collar counties, with DuPage County votes still outstanding. Downstate, Rauner had a slight lead over Ives.
The closeness of the contest represents a significant blow to a deep-pocketed governor who began his primary campaign a year ago with an eye toward the general election, not expecting to have to defend himself to Republican voters.
Ives, who was vastly outspent, conceded defeat shortly after Rauner's victory speech, saying "we proved that the grassroots cannot be taken advantage of."
"You know as I know that Bruce Rauner had to be challenged in this election. But today the popular revolt against the political ruling class fell just a bit short," she told supporters at a campaign event in Glen Ellyn. "When you think about how far we have come in less than five months, it is astounding."
Ives, however, did not pledge to support Rauner in the November election during her speech.
The three-term lawmaker from Wheaton had pitched herself to GOP voters as the one who could revive the "taxpayer revolt" that she said Rauner had failed to lead.
Rauner, a former private equity executive whose 2014 campaign pledge to "shake up Springfield" materialized as a record two-year budget impasse and intense partisan gridlock at the Capitol, sold himself as the only hope for continuing to chip away at the power of entrenched Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Rauner hasn't done much "chipping away" at Madigan's power lately. In fact, he has climbed into bed with the powerful Democrat, signing into law his agenda on schools, immigration, abortion, and transgender issues.
For Ives's part, she ran a decent campaign and had a winning message but just couldn't compete with Rauner's personal wealth. Rauner spent $16 million of his own money running misleading ads that sought to portray Ives as a friend of Madigan in the statehouse. Considering the closeness of the vote, they may have made the difference.
Rauner's wealth will do him no good in the general election. He will be running against mutli-billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who will also be prepared to spend tens of millions to win. Analysts are predicting the most expensive governor's race in U.S. history, with Pritzker hammering away at Rauner's dismal record and Rauner hitting Pritzker for being a crony of disgraced, impeached, and imprisoned governor Rod Blagojevich.
Pritzker will be heavily favored in Democratic-leaning Illinois.