Quinn, Rauner focus on suburbs as key to their campaigns

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is running against Republican Bruce Rauner in the November general election.

    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is running against Republican Bruce Rauner in the November general election.

  • Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner speaks during an interview in Chicago on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Rauner is running against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November 2014 general election.

    Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner speaks during an interview in Chicago on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Rauner is running against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November 2014 general election.

Updated 9/24/2014 9:17 AM

Suburban voters, you can expect to see a lot of the two candidates for Illinois governor in the five weeks before Election Day.

They both need you. And you're going hear about it on TV, on the Internet and in person.


Both sides have crafted messages they hope will play in the suburbs as they target the independent-minded voters who live here and could be key to four years as governor.

In the past week, the two sparred over the economy, with Republican challenger Bruce Rauner of Winnetka stopping in Elk Grove Village to tour a factory, tout his business credentials and suggest it's Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's fault the state lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to economic recovery.

"I want to make sure we are pro-growth, pro-investment, pro-job creation so we have a booming economy instead of one the highest unemployment rates in America," he said at the event.

Meanwhile, Quinn hit the airwaves with a TV ad saying he's the pro-jobs candidate, showing himself with Ford factory workers and making the pitch that under him things have gotten better.

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"We've got a ways to go, but we're making the tough decisions to get us rolling again," he says in the spot. "Everybody in? I'm driving."

Quinn's message that he inherited a tough economic situation and is working to turn it around is similar to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign pitch, and the Democrat carried Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties in 2012. Even the longtime Republican stronghold of DuPage County voted for Obama and sent two Democratic lawmakers to Springfield for the first time in recent memory.

Two years before, the collar counties all voted Republican in both high-profile races for governor, where Bill Brady failed to unseat Quinn, and U.S. senator, where Mark Kirk was successful against Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

That kind of independent-minded streak among many suburban voters is why both candidates will be pleading for support in the area nonstop until Nov. 4.


"I don't think you can overstate the importance of the suburbs," state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said. "You've got a lot of pretty independent voters. There's no better evidence than recent history."

The 2014 election will be different from those contests in ways that might be clear only on Nov. 5, and both candidates' successes in Chicago and downstate will play a big role, too.

But their appeals to suburban voters, via duels over school funding, property taxes and other issues, have been clear.

One key to Rauner's tax plan is freezing property taxes. Suburban homeowners see their bills climb despite the damage to housing prices done by the mortgage crisis. He's not said how he'll bring about a property tax freeze, and many lawmakers are likely to balk at the idea of hampering the budgets of their local school districts, but the concept could be appealing to many homeowners.

"Illinois has become the worst-run state in America with brutally high taxes, high unemployment, schools that are deteriorating, and massive corruption, cronyism and patronage under Pat Quinn," Rauner said in Elk Grove Village.

Quinn dispatched former Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan to call Rauner a "carnival barker" and argue the property tax freeze is unrealistic.

Quinn offered an increased property tax credit to homeowners in the spring that lawmakers never approved. And he says the only way to keep property taxes in check is for the state to send more money to schools, which it can do only if he and lawmakers are allowed to extend 2011's income tax increase.

It's a tricky political position, but Quinn campaigned on raising taxes in 2010 and won. This time, he's asking voters to let them keep rates where they are.

"Gov. Quinn didn't hide from the tough decisions," spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. "He tackled them."

The duels haven't stopped there -- and won't -- even if they sometimes extend to matters beyond a direct appeal to collar-county voters.

Quinn has sought to paint Rauner as too rich and out of touch with Illinoisans, a notion with broad appeal but perhaps less resounding in comparatively affluent suburban areas.

Rauner has tried to tie Quinn as too much like his onetime running mate, imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose unpopularity extends statewide.

Rauner has tried to highlight allegations of political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation. Quinn has sought to bring up some of Rauner's business dealings that have gone wrong.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, says Quinn's wealth-based attacks might not work in his district. Success should be praised, he said.

Plus, Duffy said, a Rauner ad saying the candidate had no social agenda could appeal to independents.

"I think he's more successful at that than maybe Bill Brady was in the past," Duffy said.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat first elected from DuPage County in 2012, said Quinn has the means to get his message out to voters better than Rauner's primary election opponents did.

Before that March election, Rauner flooded TV with ads and could drown out the other three candidates.

So far, Quinn has shown that won't happen to him and has poked at Rauner over his conflicting comments about the state's minimum wage. Quinn supports raising it and has worked to make sure voters know that.

Not all will agree, though.

"There are some diverse interests and so many diverse concerns out there," Cullerton said.

Daily Herald staff writer Melissa Silverberg contributed to this story.

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