Our endorsement: Rauner for governor and change

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 10/13/2014 11:28 AM
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  • Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate for governor of Illinois

      Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate for governor of Illinois Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Let's get straight to the point. Illinois cannot continue on the rutted and misguided path it has stumbled along for the past decade.

Billions of dollars behind in paying its bills. Its ledgers swollen with tens of billions of dollars in debt -- a total debt so large almost no one knows exactly what it is. And all this with a credit rating among the worst in the country.

A system of taxation that is imposing, complex and rife with unfairness. Businesses fleeing by the hundreds, impelled by an imposing workers' compensation system and a general reputation for hostility toward commercial interests, unless they are so large that they can twist the state's arm for a portion of corporate welfare. A crumbling infrastructure and no plan to improve it. Uncertain school funding.

A reputation as one of the most corrupt states in the union, and legislative leaders at all levels not merely void of the people's trust but unashamed to demonstrate they do not deserve it.

We are not blind to the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn inherited much of this toxic flotsam, nor to the efforts he has made, with occasional incremental successes, to deal with it. But we're also well aware of what the answer would be from almost any Illinoisan to the question of "is your outlook better today than it was four years ago?" And we shudder to remember what most people's outlook was four years ago.

No, the theme of the gubernatorial election must be change.

Installing a Republican governor while both houses of the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court remain solidly Democratic will not by itself ensure a new direction, but at least it may give balance a fighting chance.

And challenger Bruce Rauner is not just any Republican.

He is an outsider with no accumulated political debts and no reason to accumulate any. Even discounting his remarkable financial fortune, his leadership in the movement for term limits emphasizes that he is not getting into this business to rack up re-elections or secure a fat public pension. He can lead independently, without fear of abandonment by the voters or his party, and therefore work to build consensus that considers all interests fairly.

We're not sure of everything it says that his wife and one of his best friends, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are Democrats, but one message certainly must be that he can get along with people with whom he fundamentally disagrees. Illinois needs that quality in its leaders, and Rauner certainly will need it as Illinois governor. Running a state transparently and cooperatively with other government leaders who have much power of their own and who do not report to you is very much different from running a financial business empire.

Indeed, Rauner will need all the leadership tools he has gathered in the course of a self-made career at the helm of a vast collection of diverse businesses. Among them, let us not overlook, he will need compassion, too, of the type that has made him and his wife leading benefactors for diverse charities, notably agencies that serve the disadvantaged and that strive to provide improved educational opportunities to children in poverty.

But he has these, and they are much more representative of his character than the spurious and speculative accusations that some opponents attempt to taint him with involving the clear misdeeds of people who worked at nursing homes in which his companies invested. Likewise, for the record, Quinn's long record as a political outsider and his undeniable activism to make government more honest and transparent belie the spurious accusations attempting to link him to the Blagojevich corruption or even to patronage hiring at IDOT.

In short, the issue here is not the character of the candidates. Both are honorable men.

Is Rauner the perfect candidate? Who could be? To be sure, we are more than a little troubled by the vagueness of his economic proposals, the outright naiveté if not political opportunism of his call for a property tax freeze, the sometimes simplistic framework in which he contains Illinois' complex problems.

But we are clear on his ultimate objective for the state -- an objective, frankly, that we believe Gov. Quinn and most Illinoisans share. The question is which of the two men can change the course of Illinois history, and that dramatically.

Whatever small steps he has taken, Gov. Pat Quinn has had six years in which to put the state back on course, but ultimately has shown he is not the leader we need.

Bruce Rauner is. He gets our endorsement to be the next governor of Illinois.

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