Gov. Bruce Rauner is struggling in his re-election bid. A statewide poll released Thursday by the Illinois Broadcasters Association showed Democrat J.B. Pritzker leading Republican Rauner, 44 percent to 27 percent.
With only a month and a half left until the Nov. 6, election, Rauner is trying out a new campaign tactic. Some call it a mea culpa. Rauner won’t go that far, but he is saying that if voters give him a second term, he’ll be reasonable when dealing with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
As you know, his hard line against the Democrats led to a two-year stalemate in which Illinois did not have a budget. Rauner hoped to win support for his “Turnaround” agenda of reforms to curtail the size and influence of state government, but it took him four years to realize that simply bashing the other party wasn’t a viable governing strategy.
Democrats weren’t buying Rauner’s “Turnaround” because they said it was simply a union-busting plan. For two years the political squabble hurt all Illinoisans.
Here, from the Chicago Sun-Times, is an excerpt from the prepared transcript of the speech Rauner gave Thursday at the Chicago Hilton:
“I know the budget impasse was painful. It kept me up at night worrying about the disruption that many families experienced. All of us elected officials let you down in that struggle.
“But the budget impasse was a fight for reform. The people of Illinois have suffered for decades under a political system that cares less about the people it represents, than about keeping special interests happy to win the next election. A system that does what’s politically easy instead of what’s right.
“It takes courage to stand up to the special interests and the status quo. But I’ve learned that it’s equally important to build mutual understanding — to find common ground with those elected officials who want to change things for the better.
“It’s no secret that real divides exist between our political parties. That’s why I’ve learned to listen. It takes wisdom to listen to those who disagree with you, wisdom that can be gained only through years of tough political fights.
“I have learned that building consensus around ideas … hammering out policy details … clearly communicating to the people of Illinois why they matter … these things take time in government. Sometimes more time than we’d like.
“And I have learned that there are countless areas where we can work together — with Democrats, Republicans and Independents. When we put aside our partisan differences and focus on the good of the people, we can get great things done.”
He’s right, finally. As I’ve written before, Rauner tried to emulate fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who cut government spending and rolled back the size and clout of government unions.
Walker has succeeded in carrying out his agenda because he has had a legislative majority. He’s seeking a third term on Nov. 6 and is a close race with Democratic nominee Tony Evers. A Marquette University poll released Aug. 22 had the men tied at 46 percent each.
Rauner has never had a majority in either the state House or Senate, so he’s been a general without an army.
Other Republican governors in Illinois found themselves in similar situations; however, Jim Edgar, Jim Thompson and even George Ryan were successful governors because they were skilled politicians who knew how to bargain successfully with House and Senate Democratic leaders. I remember several end-of-session news conferences in front of the governor’s second floor Capitol office, when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate emerged with the governor and announced a compromise budget deal.
Nobody got all they wanted, but nobody got nothing. That reflects divided government, which was and is often the will of the voters.
Neither man knows what it’s like to be an average Illinoisan:
Pritzker, co-inheritor of the Hyatt Hotels fortune, was worth $3.3 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes. Rauner, a private equity fund manager, is said to be worth several hundred million dollars. Rauner’s tax returns show he earned $188 million in state taxable income in 2015, and $91 million in 2016, according to Chicago Tonight.
Political bosses love mega-rich candidates because they can fund their own campaigns. Sure it’s corrupt, but it’s convenient.
Chuck Sweeny: mailto:email@example.com; @chucksweeny
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September 15, 2018 at 11:20AM