One of the Republican candidates will challenge Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2014 General Election. The other three will limp home bruised and battered from an Illinois GOP primary race that’s decided Tuesday, March 18.
There is a lightning rod candidate and it’s Bruce Rauner but his most vocal critics are often pundits of the hardliners in the GOP.
The Rauner campaign is selling term limits and picking fights with public sector union bosses. That makes some think he might be the next Scott Walker. But his staunchest conservative critics insist he is a RINO in sheep’s clothing and too good of buddies with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama.
Dan Rutherford thinks the Rauner campaign is behind a former worker’s allegations of sexual harassment. But those allegations were made, not proven, and unlikely to be ignored considering Illinois’ track record for Governors.
Bill Brady supports term limits, too. His problem as far as generating excitement for the Brady campaign is that as the Republican candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race he won in all but four counties in the state and still couldn’t beat Pat Quinn.
Kirk Dillard by his roots is a Jim Thompson Republican. He served as director of legislative affairs for former Governor Thompson and then as Chief of Staff to former Governor Jim Edgar. Dillard finished a razor close runner-up to Brady in the 2010 primary race losing by less than 200 votes.
Dillard appears the safe bet candidate with the backing of former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson, plus many northern Illinois state lawmakers along with dozens of township, county and other officials in DuPage County, where Mr. Dillard used to be the county Republican chairman.
Dillard picked up a key endorsement from the Illinois Education Association, one of the state’s major public teachers’ unions. The teacher’s union and its 130,000 members are traditionally Democratic voters, but that may not be the case in the March primary, according to IEA president Cinda Klickna.
“I have heard from many of our members, both Democrats and Independents, who have said this is such a crucial election,” IEA president Cinda Klickna said. “It is about public education, and we are going to be taking a Republican ballot.”
Rauner’s campaign to “shake up Springfield” often targets public sector union bosses as part of needed reform efforts. That makes him the target of a well financed Illinois Freedom PAC “anyone but Rauner” advertising smear campaign.
According to the Chicago Tribune paperwork filed with the State Board of Elections, the IEA and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have each donated $500,000 into the recently created Illinois Freedom PAC. In addition, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which includes the Chicago Teachers Union, donated $250,000 to Illinois Freedom PAC.
The $1.34 million in donations of money and assistance to the Illinois Freedom PAC comes on top of $500,000 previously donated to the Illinois Freedom PAC by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME).
The telltale support for the Illinois Freedom PAC might be the $89,160 in consulting and polling assistance provided by the Democratic Governors Association to help Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election chances.
Rauner has riled the old guard in the Illinois GOP with his attacks on career politicians and push for term limits. Support for those reform measures are divided by generational lines among local legislators.
Rep. Tom Demmer (Dixon) endorsed Bill Brady who supports term limits. Rep. Joe Sosnowski (Rockford) invited his Facebook followers to a Bruce Rauner event. Rep. Bob Pritchard (Hinckley) and State Sen. Dave Syverson (Rockford) support Kirk Dillard who opposes term limits.
According to several trending polls Rauner is doing well. His campaign and his positions on Illinois reform offer the starkest contrast to status quo. But the IEA endorsement of Dillard coinciding with the Illinois Freedom PAC’s “anyone but Rauner” campaign is a major development.
Rutherford’s calamity likely benefits the Dillard camp much more than Brady or Rauner. Rutherford was the only candidate to seek IEA’s endorsement and many of his supporters believe Rauner played the lowest of dirty trick games in the allegations of harassment.
Brady eeked out a narrow primary race victory in 2010 in a crowded field. It’s less crowded in 2014 and a Rutherford implosion does little for Brady unless Rauner versus Dillard becomes a blood bath.
The survivor of the GOP race, bloodied as he may be, faces Gov. Pat Quinn who will be put in a position to defend status quo to Illinois voters fed up with it.
If Democrats show up on the Republican primary ballot in large numbers to vote against Rauner it will be interesting to see how many return to their own party to support Quinn.