Kadner: Republicans ‘fragging’ their own
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org February 11, 2014 8:10PM
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner shakes hands last week before a debate in Naperville. | AP photo
Updated: February 12, 2014 3:56PM
Palos Township Republican Committeeman Sean Morrison claims that party members are “fragging” Bruce Rauner.
“Fragging,” Morrison explains in a proposed opinion column he submitted to the SouthtownStar, is a “disgraceful act” by soldiers who murder military colleagues using fragmentation grenades.
“We are witnessing a metaphoric ‘political fragging,’ a character assassination if you will, but make no mistake about it; Bruce Rauner is being intentionally fragged by members of his own party as well,” Morrison wrote.
Rauner, a multimillionaire venture capitalist, is considered by many to be the Republican Party’s front-runner in the Illinois gubernatorial primary next month.
The Chicago Sun-Times revealed this week that Steven Shearer, former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-18th, is behind the production of a 12-page, newspaper-style mailer going out to 500,000 homes that rips Rauner for having close ties to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and claims his wife is “radically pro-abortion.”
The material urges Republican voters to support any of the three candidates opposing Rauner: state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Of course, Rutherford has encountered his own political problems this week in the form of a lawsuit filed by a former top aide who claims he was sexually harassed by the treasurer.
Morrison, however, contends that the attacks on Rauner are different because government union bosses and Democrats are working with Republicans to undermine Rauner’s candidacy.
There have been reports that Shearer’s group, the Republican Fund for Progress & Jobs, is being supported financially by unions and Democratic Party activists.
“I mean, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Morrison said during a telephone interview. “They’re claiming Rauner’s wife is anti-abortion. Since when does it matter what the candidate’s wife thinks? She’s not running for governor.”
No, she’s not, but there probably are some Republicans who think that if Rauner is willing to live with a pro-choice spouse, he might be harboring similar views himself.
Rauner is not without the ability to defend himself. He’s spending much more on this campaign than any other Republican, including a reported $2 million of his own money so far, and has vowed to spend whatever it takes on TV commercials to get elected governor.
Some public employee unions are reportedly planning an expensive advertising campaign, separate from Shearer’s, attacking Rauner, who has made it clear that he’s the anti-union candidate. So it should come as no surprise that the unions are fighting back.
As far as the attacks connecting him to Chicago’s mayor, that had to be expected as well.
One of Rauner’s opponents, months ago, told me that while Rauner had a solid lead among likely Republican voters, a poll demonstrated that more than 70 percent of those voters said they never would vote for a candidate who was a friend of Rahm Emanuel.
“Republican voters hate Rahm Emanuel,” that candidate told me. “They remember he was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. When you tell them that Rauner had a business relationship with Emanuel, that he went on vacation with Rahm Emanuel, his support among likely Republican voters evaporates.”
Morrison said Rauner is a businessman, and businessmen develop social relationships with all sorts of people because “it’s good for business.”
I understand that, and I would go so far as to say it’s good politics as well. But most conservative Republicans these days would find such bipartisan relationships revolting.
“RINO” (Republican in name only) is an acronym used to express disdain for any member of the GOP who develops a close relationship with a leader in the Democratic Party.
“That sort of conservative attitude is what we’re trying to change,” Morrison said. “It doesn’t work. In order to win an election, you have to reach independent voters, you have to get them to vote for a Republican candidate, and to do that, they have to believe the candidate is going to do what’s best for all the people of the state.”
That sounded strange coming from Morrison because I once considered him a member of the radical wing of the state GOP.
He’s now deputy chairman of the Cook County Republican Party and has talked a lot about the need to rebuild the party by focusing more on financial issues and less on the party’s often-divisive social agenda.
It should be noted that Morrison was among the first Republican committeemen to endorse Rauner for governor.
“I think he’s got the best chance of winning in November, and backing a candidate who can win ought to be our party’s top priority,” Morrison told me.
In the meantime, Rutherford claims that Rauner is behind the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him. He also says Rauner was behind attack ads last year that distorted the voting record of Schock, who was considering a run for governor at the time.
Schock told a radio station Tuesday that he agrees with Rutherford and believes Rauner’s camp was involved with the attack ads. Shearer, as I mentioned above, was Schock’s chief of staff.
All of this is really what primary campaigns are about.
You can bet that Democrats and unions are going to trot out all of this information about Rauner during the November campaign if Republican opponents don’t do it now.
About 800,000 people are expected to cast Republican ballots in the March 18 primary. With four candidates running, chances are anyone who gets 250,000 votes would easily win.
Bill Brady won the 2010 GOP primary for governor by less than 1,000 votes, getting just more than 155,000 votes.
If the unions really want to impact this Republican primary, all they need do is tell their members to cast Republican ballots in March.