Rauner rallies his base on Ives' home turf in DuPage County
With Republican challenger Jeanne Ives gaining traction, Gov. Bruce Rauner dropped into the GOP voter heartland of DuPage County Monday to pick up endorsements from leaders who called the moderate conservative the party's "best chance."
"We're absolutely going to win the (March 20) primary ... dramatically. And we'll win the general election as well," Rauner said, flanked by DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin along with a contingent of local mayors and lawmakers.
As the incumbent, Rauner typically would be doing a victory romp instead of shoring up support. Ives' candidacy causes churn in DuPage, the second largest Republican voting block in Illinois. A social conservative state representative from Wheaton, she's excoriated Rauner's decision to support state health insurance and Medicaid funding for abortions -- a move that troubled some DuPage Republicans, also.
Cronin called Rauner "uniquely qualified" to beat the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the Nov. 6 election. The governor's "got very strong support across DuPage" and "reflects the views and sentiments of DuPage County voters," Cronin said.
Rauner posed with mayors of 14 municipalities, including Naperville's Steve Chirico, who hosted the event at his floor business.
Some of those municipalities are hurting after state officials approved a budget levying a 2 percent surcharge on sales tax funds distributed by the Department of Revenue.
Asked if the surcharge would be lifted, Rauner said "we want to try to cut back as many of the costs as we can on our governments and on taxpayers. We'll see what we can do ... it's hard to predict. We've been able to get some things done in the General Assembly ... we've accomplished some and some they blocked."
Ives batted away concerns. "I'll put all my endorsements against him any day," she said. "He has zero grassroots-level support. I'm not surprised by the back-scratching routine. Downstate is not with Rauner."
Earlier this month, Ives picked up the endorsement of the Wheeling Township Republican Party in Cook County.
Republicans can "ill afford to fight among our selves at critical juncture," Cronin said. "We have to be mindful of the big picture and who has the best chance to get elected -- I believe Rauner does."
State Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville said, "I believe the city of Naperville's values historically align with what the governor is try to accomplish."
Rauner brushed off reports he'd been sparring with Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as both try to lure Amazon to set up a second campus in the Chicago area.
"We're both working hard to get Amazon," Rauner said. "We've got a terrific chance to win Amazon. We offer everything they asked for."
A bitter feud between Rauner and Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan contributed to political gridlock and lack of a budget for about two years.
Rauner said he expects to win two federal lawsuits regarding municipalities being allowed to establish right-to-work policies and whether nonunion government employees can refuse to pay union dues. Those victories would give him the clout to make some legislative headway, he said.
"Whether Mike Madigan's there or not, we'll be able to drive major change," Rauner promised.
Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said he stands with Rauner but said the governor hasn't wrapped up DuPage yet.
"He needs to rally his base now and demonstrate statesmanship," Craig said.