Pritzker, Kennedy, Rauner and 'governor gazillionaires'

By Ed Murnane
Posted4/11/2017 1:00 AM

The not-so-shocking announcement last week that gazillionaire J.B. Pritzker plans to run for governor of Illinois may be surprising -- but more than that, it is revealing.

Pritzker's announcement, along with the months-old announcement that Chris Kennedy (maybe not a gazillionaire but not far from it) is a candidate for governor, reveals -- maybe even proves -- that another of Illinois' ultrarich politicians is in deep trouble, maybe fatal trouble.

Bruce Rauner may be able to hold his own in a high-dollar poker game with Mssrs. Pritzker and Kennedy, but they seem to know something he doesn't -- that while he is extremely rich, he also is extremely vulnerable.

What has Rauner done for Illinois in his two years as governor? Why will anyone, other than rock-hard Republicans (or Democrat haters), want to support him?

True, he has held his ground against the Democrats and Speaker Mike Madigan on some issues and in some battles, but what benefit has that been for most Illinois citizens? Has he been able to get the General Assembly to pass a budget? As of this week, the state's backlog of unpaid bills is more than $13.1 BILLION, according to the state comptroller.

While many admire Rauner for holding his ground and not allowing expenditure (or pledging) of funds the state doesn't have, his inability to reach any kind of compromise with Democrats in the General Assembly points to a long and drawn-out dark period for Illinois. The next statewide election is in 19 months, with primaries in both parties scheduled for March 2018 -- just 11 months from now.

Unless there is a Republican challenge to Rauner in the primary (there could be), the focus and attention will be on the Democrats who will be able to argue over which of the two big names (Kennedy and Pritzker) would be the best solution to Rauner and his Illinois problems. After all, they will say, Rauner created these problems, because he refused to compromise with Madigan and John Cullerton and the Democrats.

This won't be a fight between Pritzker and Kennedy. It will be all about Rauner. The Democrats can spend millions before the primary in March. Whoever loses will undoubtedly support the other and there practically could be more money floating around Illinois during the next 10 months than is needed to balance the state's budget, erase the deficit and not only give all state patrollers an extra two weeks of vacation time so that they can knock on every door in Democrat strongholds in Illinois, then get rides to the polling place and baby sitters if needed. And maybe lunch.

While Rauner was elected governor in 2014, it was a "squeaker" in that he won with 50.3 percent of the vote against Pat Quinn.

Instead of the images shown in his latest campaign ad -- the duct tape commercial -- he ought to be shown sitting at his desk, maybe with some charts behind him showing the Illinois deficit, his explanation for why there is no budget, the refusal of Democrats led by Speaker Madigan to compromise and present to Illinois voters the simple facts in plain English. And maybe in Spanish, too.

Maybe wearing a tie, too, and a suit coat or blazer, would help. Illinoisans don't like Donald Trump, but they expect him to dress like a president when he's "acting presidential" -- and he does. Rauner should dress like a governor when he's "acting gubernatorially" -- and he sometimes does, but only sometimes.

Rauner's money, by the way, probably means nothing in this campaign. If there is any benefit to the multimillions of dollars Rauner has represented thus far, it's that the opposition represents even bigger money than his.

How does Edward F. Murnane -- my late father, a factory worker for General Motors and a strong Democrat from the Southwest Side of Chicago -- relate to Pritzker or Kennedy, two men of vast wealth who may pretend to know what working in a factory is like but really don't?

I'd say he'd go for Kennedy -- an Irish Catholic from the Kennedy Clan -- and -- one who lives in Chicago (not really, but close enough).

I think there are many others like him.

Ed Murnane,, of Arlington Heights, is retired president of the Illinois Civil Justice League and a former staff member for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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