He says that members of the Republican establishment view him as a threat, has no concern about ramifications of being married to an active Democrat, and describes rumors that he may have clouted his daughter into a prestigious magnet school as "political attack baloney."
Enter Bruce Rauner, the Winnetka venture capitalist who promises to shake up the 2014 Republican primary for governor should he make a bid. Several weeks into his "listening tours" around Illinois, Rauner spoke with the Daily Herald about the timing of a future announcement and the perspective he brings to a beleaguered state party.
Q. What does the exit of Peoria Congressman Aaron Schock do to your perspective in the governor's race?
A. I don't spend too much time thinking on any of that. I haven't focused on who my potential opponents might be. The (Republican primary) field has been in flux and not really set at all. I'm not running with a focus on a political career for myself. If I do run, it will be about transforming the government in Springfield. ... Who I might run against doesn't change my thinking at all.
Q. But some have connected your supporters to attack ads against Schock.
A. There were some rumors about that. I have had no involvement in those issues.
I know Aaron. I've supported him. I like him. I've donated to him. Because we've come early and I think we've scared the political establishment, I think we've been subject to a number of false rumors. I think it's mostly political baloney.
Q. So, why do you think you've scared the political establishment?
A. Because I'm independent, I've been successful in business and self made. I can come at this independently and with a fresh perspective. The core issue I want to deal with is the conflict of interest, the corruption and the self dealing in Springfield. Not only is it endemic in the Democratic Party, but it's eating into the Republican establishment politicians as well. I want to take that on, very aggressively and very openly, and I think that concerns some people.
Q. You have vaguely outlined a leadership plan. Do you see that as something you'll get into more?
A. I'm not a candidate yet. As the campaign unfolds. I am putting some pieces of the plan together as part of the listening tour. The governorship in Illinois is a very powerful office. It can do a lot through its powers. If you're willing to use that power for good, you can get a lot done.
Q. When do you plan to make an announcement about a bid?
A. I'm getting excited. The answer is soon. I don't have a specific date. The reception to my message and the challenges I've heard around the state has been terrific. I've gone from testing to very excited.
Q. Your exploratory committee includes members from across the conservative spectrum, including influential Barrington Republican Jack Roeser and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin of Chicago. Are they all fully invested?
A. Everyone on my committee is very involved and very strongly with us. My goal is to unify our party and unify around messages that appeal to all voters.
You know the Republican Party has been splintered and fractured and almost destroyed. If Illinois stays a one-party state, we can't thrive as a community.
We need to rebuild the Republican Party. Nobody agrees on 100 percent of issues. But as Republicans, we share common beliefs. To rebuild the party, we need to unify around those principles.
Q. Your wife has been involved with some Democratic fundraising. How does that affect your image as a Republican?
A. I don't know. It's not me. I love her dearly. She's a Democrat; nobody's perfect. She's entitled to her views, her donations, her advocacy. God bless her. She's great.
Q. There has been some suggestion that you relied on clout to get your daughter into Walter Payton College Prep. You've responded, so far, by saying your family's off the table. Are you going to continue that or explain this more?
A. That's just basic political attack baloney. I don't put any credence to it. My wife and I did nothing wrong. We advocated for our children. Every parent should advocate for their children. That's not a crime. There's nothing bad about that. I'm not embarrassed in the least.
Every parent should be able to choose from some good quality school options for their kid. I will shout that from the rooftops. I will never back down and apologize for that.