In one of the most comprehensive campaign criticisms leveled in the early Republican primary season for governor, the running mate of state Sen. Kirk Dillard assailed rival Bruce Rauner's wealth and connections and questioned whether he was a "true Republican."
The criticisms leveled by the Hinsdale lawmaker's candidate for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy, came as Rauner embarked on a weather-delayed bus tour of the state, starting in southern Illinois. Tracy labeled the tour a "stunt."
"I think we have to face the fact that someone that does have quite a number of homes and is a billionaire might be out of touch somewhat with the average Illinoisan that's facing losing his home," Tracy said, playing the traditional attack role of a running mate.
"I don't think Bruce is a true Republican candidate," she said in a conference call with reporters. "I think that his close associations with Democrats and (Chicago) Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic candidates nationally and statewide prove otherwise."
Rauner, an equity investor, has a close relationship with Emanuel and helped the mayor get into the financial equity business prior to Emanuel's election to public office. Rauner's name also has been linked to donations to several Democrats in the past, though Rauner has said many actually came from his wife, Diana. He also voted in the 2006 Democratic primary, backing Forrest Claypool's failed bid for Cook County Board president.
Mike Schrimpf, Rauner's spokesman, dismissed the attack and contended Rauner's message of changing Springfield was a winning one for Illinois voters.
"Bruce will let the campaigns of career politicians and government union bosses sling the mud while he keeps focused on letting voters know about his ideas for more jobs, lower taxes and spending, better schools and term limits," Schrimpf said.
But Tracy said that, "especially for Downstaters, they want to see far less domination of state government by Chicago insiders." She also said Rauner's criticism of "government union bosses" ignores that many Republican workers Downstate are union members. She accused Rauner of pushing "divisiveness" and being "caustic," rather than "offering solutions."
Tracy's criticism of Rauner's wealth was noteworthy since her husband's parents founded Dot Foods, one of the nation's largest food distributors. She said her criticism was not meant to demean success.
While Rauner continued with his bus tour, his campaign also announced the first-time political candidate would take part in five candidate debates and forums before the March 18 primary. The first is a Feb. 4 morning forum in Naperville sponsored by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.