Springfield – Illinois’ gubernatorial campaign promises to be lively and expensive this year with a Republican multi-millionaire, Bruce Rauner, trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn.
Quinn’s tenure since becoming governor in 2009 has been controversial as the state has wrestled with financial problems that pre-date his governorship. He has made unpopular decisions such as signing off on the Legislature’s public employee pension compromise. As a result, AFSCME would not endorse Quinn in the primary.
But Rauner, a venture capitalist who spent $6 million of his own money to win the nomination, has developed a habit of announcing positions and then backing off of them when they prove controversial, such as saying he wanted to roll back the state’s minimum wage and then denying that was his position.
Rauner has also proposed creating “right-to-work zones” in the state while later denying he supports making Illinois a right-to-work state.
OBSESSED WITH DESTROYING UNIONS
The New York Times interviewed a Chicago-area AFSCME official, Roberta Lynch, who described Rauner as “clearly a man obsessed with destroying unions.”
“He’s trying to stir up resentment of public employees – teachers, police officers, firefighters,” Lynch said.
Rauner has said he would emulate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was able to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights.
In an effort to keep Rauner from winning the nomination, the Illinois Education Association mounted a primary campaign supporting Republican Kirk Dillard, whose website claimed he was the most conservative of the four contenders in the GOP primary.
Rauner won with a plurality of only 40 percent of the vote, while Dillard had 37 percent.
LOCALS SUPPORT QUINN
Metro-East labor leaders have been warning their members that electing Rauner would be a disaster for unions.
At the most recent meeting of the Southwestern Illinois Buiulding & Construction Trades Council, its Executive Secretary, Dale Stewart, described how important it is to have a Democratic administration leading the Illinois government, providing friends in crucial areas such as the Capital Development Board and the Department of Transportation who help keep the union workers employed.
Also, Bill Thurston, president of the Southwestern Illinois Labor Council AFL-CIO, said at a recent meeting that unions will need to support Quinn, even if it is reluctantly.
“He may not be the best fish in the pond, but if he doesn’t win, what are we going to be stuck with?” he said.
All observers agree it will be an expensive and potentially aggravating media campaign. Rauner has unlimited money available – his own – while Quinn will rely on Democratic donors including union funds.