The question facing voters in the Republican primary election for governor on March 20 is who will be the standard-bearer of the party. Will it be a sincere, stalwart but flawed incumbent who has been frustrated in his efforts to bring reforms in business and state government? Or, a three-term state representative with a limited record of accomplishment, a demonstrated, indeed proud, history of ridiculing Illinois citizens who do not share her uncompromising conservative values and all but no chance of winning in November?
There is no hiding disappointment in the unyielding stubbornness that prevented Gov. Bruce Rauner from advancing reforms on which he was elected and, worse, led to a two-year budget stalemate. But one can find hope in the observation that when he showed a disposition toward compromise and cooperation -- as with historic reforms toward a more equitable, evidence-based system of funding schools -- big, important things could be accomplished.
If he has learned something from the experience, Rauner could offer some promise of a more productive second term. Unfortunately, his challenger, state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, offers no such prospect.
From every indication, her approach to managing the Democratic legislature would be every bit as obstructionist as Rauner's has been, and -- as demonstrated through the demeaning and confrontational spot that led off her television ad campaign -- she seems certain to divide the party and the state at a time when we desperately need more understanding and cooperation.
Moreover, and this is a key point, she cannot win in November. Some Republicans may hope to see in the fall a Trumpian show of unlikely victory through an Ives candidacy, but such thinking is clearly futile. Keep in mind that Donald Trump had near-universal name recognition in the 2016 general election for president and lost Illinois to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly a million votes. Off-year elections traditionally pose difficulties for the party occupying the White House. To think that a divisive state lawmaker all but unknown outside her legislative district will overcome that trend and those million Democratic votes in a campaign against whoever emerges from the Democratic primary is to defy credulity.
In contrast, Rauner has shown that he can buck the state's Democratic tendencies. And, he is completing a four-year legislative learning curve from which he presumably has found out something about what doesn't work -- and what does -- both to stop a wholesale onslaught of Democratic measures and to promote at least a degree of limited-government Republican principles.
So, the outlook for Republicans in this primary is clear and persuasive. Vote for a candidate whose divisive brand of confrontational conservatism would divide the party, continue the futile obstructionism of the past four years and ensure a loss in November. Or, elect a candidate who has demonstrated his commitment to the fundamental values of the party and has had the opportunity to learn productive ways to advance them.
We're putting our hopes on the latter. Gov. Bruce Rauner gets our endorsement for the GOP nomination for governor in the March 20 primary.