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Kadner: Rauner rips Quinn, public employee unions at Southland forum

Updated: February 16, 2014 6:23AM



Embattled Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner appeared energized and combative at a Republican candidates forum in Oak Lawn on Monday night.

“You know what, there’s an old saying in politics: ‘If you want a friend in politics get a dog.’ You know what, I got a couple of terrific bird dogs, and I’m ready to rumble,” Rauner said. “We’re good to go. This is going to be a very, very fun race.”

Under attack for calling for a lowering of the minimum wage in Illinois and then reversing that stance, Rauner noted that, “there’s been a flap lately, so let’s talk about that.”

“Let’s be clear, no family can live a decent life on the minimum wage. It’s not possible. I don’t care whether its seven bucks or 10 bucks or 11 bucks (per hour), that’s not possible. That’s No. 1.

“No. 2, the best way to raise wages is a booming economy with multiple job opportunities for everybody who wants to work, combined with a great educational system and great vocational training system so everybody can maximize their skills.”

The candidates night was jointly sponsored by the Worth Township Republican Organization and a newly formed Tea Party chapter, the SW Chicago & Suburban Tea Party.

The only other Republican candidate for governor in attendance was state Sen. Bill Brady. During an interview before the event, Brady repeated an attack on Rauner that he launched over the weekend, saying Rauner had damaged the Republican Party in Illinois by calling for a rollback of the minimum wage.

“It makes it look like we’re for electing people who will reduce the income of working people in this state,” Brady said.

He also took a shot at Rauner for donating $250,000 to a fundraising arm of the Chicago Public Schools’ exclusive Walter Payton College Prep School, which admitted Rauner’s daughter after initially rejecting her.

“It looks like they accepted an out-of-district student in exchange for money,” Brady said.

Rauner owns a home in Winnetka but also owns properties in Chicago.

In a television interview on Monday, Rauner defended the donation, saying it came 18 months after his daughter’s admission and that he has always financially supported the schools that his children have attended.

Brady took another swipe at Rauner, repeating an earlier allegation that Rauner’s former investment firm, GTCR, received a $50 million deal from the Teachers’ Retirement System as a result of the intervention of convicted political fixer Stuart Levine.

Rauner has said he never met Levine. Brady contends that Rauner was in attendance when the contract was awarded (Levine sat on the TRS board), and “he (Levine) wouldn’t support the deal until Rauner showed up in person for the meeting.”

Brady made no mention of the controversies over the minimum wage, Payton School or Levine during his stump speech Monday night before a crowd of about 150 people. He did boast that he worked with Democrats to pass pension reform, helping to save the state $1.2 billion over the life of the deal, which faces a constitutional challenge in court.

Rauner said he never supported the pension reform plan, and new calculations indicate it will save much less than the initial projections.

He said the campaign for governor is going to be “rough and tumble,” adding that, “the Democrats are going to have a ton of money and they’re going to come and bomb us every day.

“You know what, we are going to bomb them right back. Quinn has the worst record of any governor in America, and we’re going to make sure every voter in this state knows it every week,” Rauner said. “We’re going to get him out of office, I promise you that.”

He told the audience that the “government union bosses are coming after us right now. We’re the worst-run state in America for one really powerful reason. The special interest groups that make their money from government and own Springfield.”

While battling against tenure for ineffective teachers in Illinois, Rauner told the crowd that the people who most resisted that effort were “Republican legislators who take teachers union money.”

Rauner, a multimillionaire, said he has been criticized for being rich and successful, “but since when is it a bad thing in America to be successful?”

He said his experience as a financier would result in job creation, worker compensation reform, tort reform and tax reform so businesses could afford to pay a higher minimum wage. He called the minimum-wage issue a double-edged sword.

“The minimum wage can help struggling families trying to make ends meet,” he said. “But it hurts small businesses and can drive business out of the state, force small businesses to close and push employers to replace workers with machines.”

When an audience member asked about immigration reform, Rauner replied, “When it comes to immigration America has it fundamentally wrong. We make it easy to come here illegally and virtually impossible to come here legally.

“We’ve got to make it really tough, almost impossible, to come here illegally and streamline it and encourage honest, hard-working people of all backgrounds from all nations to come here legally and work hard and become citizens.”

Among other speakers Monday night were Republican U.S. Senate candidates Jim Oberweis and Doug Truax, attorney general candidate Paul Schimpf and state treasurer candidates Tom Cross and Bob Grogan.

Rauner’s appearance was somewhat surprising because some political pundits had speculated he might hide behind a barrage of paid political advertising for the rest of the campaign after being hit with a storm of negative publicity.

Rauner said he wouldn’t go into hiding and proved that was true Monday night.

The largely friendly Republican audience, however, didn’t ask any tough questions.



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