Rauner claims victory in Republican governor race
Bruce Rauner, with wife Diana, celebrates winning the Republican nomination for the Illinois race for governor. He spoke before supporters at the Hilton and Towers in Chicago. (Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune / March 18, 2014)
Rauner, a Winnetka venture capitalist, collected 40 percent to 38 percent for Dillard with 97 percent of precincts counted. State Sen. Bill Brady had 15 percent, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford had 7.5 percent of the unofficial vote.
On the Democratic side, Quinn recived a commanding 72 percent with 97 percent of precincts counted. Challenger Tio Hardiman, the former leader of the anti-violence group CeaseFire, had 28 percent. A vote for the low-profile Hardiman amounted to a protest vote amid concerns from some Democrats about Quinn's leadership.
Rauner and Quinn quickly pivoted to the general election campaign in their victory speeches late Tuesday.
Rauner accused Quinn of practicing “the politics of division” as he labeled the governor “a failure.” Rauner said voters face a stark choice Nov. 4 between the “old status quo” versus “a new direction.”
Quinn called working-class people “the real everyday heroes of our state” and then ripped Rauner, contending the challenger's wealth left him out of touch.
“I believe in everyday people. I think a governor has to have a heart. I may not have nine mansions. I have one house,” Quinn said. “I'm not a billionaire. Never will be. I'm not part of the 1 percent and never will be there. I'm not even part of the 0.1 percent. But I'll tell you this. As long as I'm governor I'm going to fight hard for the 99.9 percent.”
Even before the Republican race was decided, Quinn tried to jump-start the general election. Believing Rauner to be his opponent, Quinn aired TV commercials during newscasts attacking the Republican over the issue of raising the minimum wage.
Quinn has backed raising the state's $8.25-an-hour minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. The issue has been a troublesome one for Rauner, who initially advocated “moving back” the state's minimum wage to the current federal rate of $7.25 an hour.
“When you see Billionaire Bruce Rauner on TV, ask yourself who is the real Bruce Rauner?” read the graphics in the ad. Rauner has said he is wealthy, but not a billionaire.
Still, the initial ad tactic acknowledged the prime Democratic strategy for keeping the executive mansion by using the minimum wage issue to amplify Rauner's wealth.
The primaries were notable for low turnout despite high stakes in the GOP contest for governor. Quinn was the only statewide Democratic candidate to have a primary challenge.
In the Republican contest, Dillard sought to take advantage of a multimillion-dollar push by public employee unions that backed him late in the campaign. Dillard had voted against the new state law that scaled back cost-of-living increases and raised retirement ages for many public workers.
“We came real close,” Dillard said. “One message for the Illinois Republican Party: You ought to follow our broad-based coalition if you ever really want to become the majority party in Illinois again.”
Dillard lost to Rauner in the senator's home turf of DuPage County. But Dillard got support from Downstate Republicans, primarily those who are union members employed by the state. Dillard led heavily in Sangamon County, where the state capital and many state workers are located, though turnout there was still low.
Rauner has promoted a decidedly anti-government union theme alleging the state workforce has been featherbedded and overpaid. He's also called for an end to tenure for public school teachers and making even stricter changes for public pensions beyond a new law Quinn signed late last year.
Rutherford, the first-term state treasurer, was the first to offer what amounted to a concession speech. His candidacy buffeted by a federal lawsuit, Rutherford said he looked forward to “vindication” and said he was “not going away” from politics. Edmund Michalowski, a former treasurer employee, filed the suit last month alleging he had been sexually harassed and forced to do political work on state time.
“I'm going to be back,” Rutherford said at his Pontiac election night reception. He called the last six weeks of his campaign “horrible” for his family, staff and friends. Rutherford planned no further public remarks and closed his reception to the media.
Rauner held front-runner status in previous polling, reflecting a strategy to use his significant financial advantage to blanket TV airwaves for months with commercials that defined the candidate as an outsider and successful businessman unencumbered by the state's traditional political rules.