Can Rauner, Pritzker unite their parties? (Ives won't endorse governor)

State Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, who came within 4 percentage points of upsetting Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary, will vote for the incumbent - but not endorse him, she said Wednesday.

In just four months, Ives amassed a conservative following across the state that delivered 341,825 votes to Rauner's 361,285. Rauner will need Ives' voters in the high-stakes Nov. 6 general election when he faces Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who claimed 46 percent of the votes cast in his six-way contest.

For now, Ives is promising to deliver only one vote.

“I'm a Republican. I'll vote for him, but I will not endorse him,” she said. “I will not campaign for him. ... Maybe if he takes out a million-dollar ad buy and admits he lied about me, maybe we'll talk.”

Rauner ads painted Ives as a patsy for powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. That cost her votes downstate, Ives said, although she and Madigan are the polar opposite politically.

Ives did prevail in the collar counties but received only 52 percent of the vote in her home county of DuPage.

Much of that can be attributed to the Republican establishment favoring the incumbent. County board Chairman Dan Cronin and at least 14 mayors - from Hanover Park to Naperville - endorsed Rauner.

While Ives won't tell her voters what to do, Republican state Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, who endorsed Ives early in her campaign, said Rauner “is our party's nominee, and I support him 100 percent.”

The focus now must be to keep Pritzker from winning, Breen said. “The people have spoken. They gave Gov. Bruce Rauner the edge. Rauner stated in the media that he's heard the message, and I believe he has.”

  Governor Bruce Rauner visits Carton Craft in St. Charles as he kicks off his general election campaign following Tuesday's primary win over Jeanne Ives. Rick West/

Rauner defended the negative ads but promised to unify the fractured party.

“I want to find common ground and create bridges on issues that divide us,” Rauner said during an appearance Wednesday at CartonCraft Inc. in St. Charles.

State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington, who endorsed Ives, thinks Rauner has a long way to go to regain the trust of Republican voters. While he's concerned about Pritzker, McSweeney noted, “the ball is in Rauner's court to take actions to show that he actually wants conservative support.”

Rauner and Pritzker campaigned largely against each other during their respective primaries, and if Wednesday's sniping is any indication, the road to November will be filled with grenades.

Rauner called the Democrat “corrupt,” a “tax dodger” and a “machine politician.”

Pritzker, with the aid of a “Rauner Failed” placard at a downtown stop, said the governor “has nothing to run on and that's one of the reasons he's going to run a completely negative campaign.”

  J.B. Pritzker holds a news conference Wednesday at the Marquis Chicago, Glessner House in Chicago. Brian Hill/

While Pritzker primary opponent Chris Kennedy on Wednesday pledged to support Pritzker, some supporters of the vanquished Democrats aren't as quick to come to Pritzker's side.

Jose Villalobos, an Elgin Township trustee who backed Daniel Biss, said “Pritzker will have to earn my vote. He has proved he can spend money to win. He still needs to prove he can earn the trust of the voters.”

And Kennedy volunteer and Democratic committeewoman Tina Tyson-Dunne of Lombard said negative ads by Pritzker made her “uncertain I can ethically check that box in November. He will have to do a lot of work between now and then to gain my trust and respect.”

Ives, who will lose her legislative seat in January, hopes her new fame will translate into votes for legislation she supports in the remaining months.

“I term-limited myself,” Ives said, not indicating whether she'll run for office again. “I have no idea what the future brings.”

Still, Ives wants something positive to emerge from her campaign and intends to focus on policies such as reforming property taxes and improving government accountability on a statewide level later on.

“I didn't get into the race to fall short - I got in to win,” she said. “Our team is very proud of the work we put in to come this close.”

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