Kadner: GOP leaders see new era in Illinois
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org March 19, 2014 8:56PM
Businessman Bruce Rauner, left, and his wife Diana, right, celebrate with supporters Rauner becoming the Republican gubernatorial candidate after defeating the field of State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, State Sen. Kirk Dillard, and State Sen. Bill Brady, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: April 21, 2014 6:47PM
To win the November election for governor, the party’s candidate is going to have to appeal to minorities, women and union members.
That’s pretty much the boilerplate for success in the Democratic Party, but Southland Republican committeemen used those very words to describe Bruce Rauner’s path to victory Nov. 4.
“Bruce Rauner is going to have to appeal to minorities, and I think he made the right first step by the selection of his running mate,” said Elizabeth Gorman, the Orland Township Republican committeewoman.
Rauner’s choice for lieutenant governor is Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti, the daughter of Cuban and Ecuadorian parents and a former assistant Illinois attorney general, who introduced Rauner to a cheering crowd in Spanish and English during his primary night victory address.
“Rev. James Meeks (pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago) is supporting Rauner for governor, and that’s a church with a large congregation and the Rev. Meeks has a lot of influence in the black community,” Gorman said.
Meeks, once the heir apparent to Operation PUSH, was a leader in the education reform movement while serving in the state Senate.
Rauner will be reaching out to the Latino and black communities as well as union members during his campaign, Gorman said.
Shaun Murphy, the Worth Township GOP committeeman, said to win the November election Rauner is going to have to convince union members that he’s not anti-union.
“I think he has to bypass the union leaders and get his message to the membership that he’s not anti-union and will do everything in his power to create jobs,” Murphy said. “That means getting out there and talking to people, and I think Bruce is going to do that.
“Listen, there are a lot of union members who live in Worth Township and the south suburbs of Cook County, and a lot of them have a spent a lot of time sitting home the past few years because there aren’t any jobs in Illinois.
“Bruce Rauner knows how to create jobs. He can put them back to work. That’s a message that union people, middle-class people, will understand.
“I’m speaking purely for myself,” Murphy emphasized. “I’m not a spokesman for the Rauner campaign. Those are strictly my thoughts. But I think you will be seeing Bruce Rauner taking that message to the people of this state. He knows he needs the votes of union workers to win this election, and he is not anti-union.”
Sean Morrison, the Palos Township Republican committeeman and deputy chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, echoed the sentiments of Murphy and Gorman, and noted that suburban Cook County provided the votes Rauner needed for victory on Tuesday.
“We got him the Cook County Republican Party endorsement, the first time in 30 years the party has endorsed a candidate during the primary, and we thought that would translate into about 3 percent of the vote,” Morrison said.
“It turned out that the suburban vote in Cook County provided the margin of victory for Bruce Rauner in this campaign,” said Morrison, who along with Gorman was an early and active supporter of Rauner.
Unofficial vote totals on Wednesday showed Rauner getting 65,305 votes in suburban Cook County compared with 40,248 for runner-up Kirk Dillard. That’s a difference of about 25,000 votes. Unofficial statewide totals had Rauner defeating Dillard by about 23,000 votes (326,953 to 303,934).
Rauner spent an extraordinary amount of time campaigning in the south suburbs, traditionally a Democratic stronghold. He even attended a Worth Township GOP candidates night in Oak Lawn.
He spent St. Patrick’s Day, the day before the election, at a rally at the Lexington House banquet hall in Hickory Hills, where more than 500 supporters gathered.
“I think all the candidates in the primary understood that suburban Cook County was going to play an important role in the outcome of this election, and I think Rauner knows that will also be the case in November,” Morrison said.
“He has to convince independent voters that he’s the best chance for change in Illinois,” he said. “This is going to be about creating jobs and improving the financial situation in the state. This campaign is not going to be about a host of other social issues that have historically proved divisive.
“Those days are over. You can’t win an election on those (social) issues. And the fact is that they are not the most important issues facing the people of this state. People need jobs. They want to get back to work. That’s what this campaign is going to be about.”
Morrison said Rauner’s position on unions has been distorted by his political foes.
“He’s opposed to undue union influence in government, in Springfield, not to unions or union members,” Morrison said. “He knows most union members are hard-working people who just want a job.
“And he’s not against pensions. He wants to make sure the state’s pension systems are financially sound so working people can collect their pensions when they retire. He is opposed to people collecting two or three different pensions at the government’s expense.”
Will County Republican Chairman Ed Ronkowski said the November campaign will be about jobs, taxes and the state’s financial insolvency.
“You don’t create jobs or raise revenue by raising taxes,” Ronkowski said. “You create revenue by cutting taxes and bringing business back to the state of Illinois. You talk to the people of Will County, and they will tell you they want taxes cut. Bruce Rauner is going to do that.”
All of the Republican Party officials acknowledged that Rauner’s personal wealth and his ability to spread his message through TV and radio commercials will be a huge advantage.
“He communicated with people, in person and through commercials, in a virtuoso manner during the primary, and that will be the key to victory in November,” Ronkowski said.