How the suburbs could decide the Rauner, Ives primary

State Rep. Jeanne Ives' candidacy continues to roil Republicans as many in the GOP establishment embrace Gov. Bruce Rauner as their best hope in the general election, while conservatives dig in for the challenger in the March 20 primary.

And if recent events are any indication, much of the battle will be fought in the suburbs.

At a Rauner pep rally with DuPage County GOP leaders a week ago, some Republicans admitted to angst over how Ives, a social conservative from Wheaton, is splitting the party, although Rauner didn't even mention her name.

Instead, he said the real threat will come from Democrats in the November general election. "We can't have Mike Madigan and J.B. Pritzker in total control," Rauner said, referring to Illinois' powerful House speaker and the Hyatt hotel heir who is one of six Democratic contenders for governor.

Meanwhile, an undeterred Ives took the podium at Chicago's Union League Club last week with her own posse of seven elected officials who back her candidacy.

"It is unprecedented to have legislators in open revolt against the governor of their own party," Ives said.

The endorsement throwdown ramped up at Rauner's event in Naperville, where DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin told party members in a private meeting "we've got to stick together" to re-elect the governor.

"Nobody likes a primary," Cronin said later. "We can ill afford to fight among ourselves."

Backing Rauner were 14 local mayors, countywide elected officials and four state senators and representatives.

But not everyone's on that bandwagon. While Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico hosted Rauner last week, two days later Naperville Township Assessor Warren Dixon was among those backing Ives.

Likewise, state lawmakers Patti Bellock and Peter Breen represent neighboring districts in eastern DuPage County. She came out for Rauner and he for Ives.

Said Chirico: "I suspect there are some single-issue Republicans that will (endorse Ives) as well, but mainstream Republicans are behind Rauner all the way. In my view, Gov. Rauner has the only realistic chance of winning as a Republican in the general election."

Breen, a Lombard state representative, said "our country was founded on a tradition of vigorous public debate. For these reasons, I'd respectfully contend that the greater good is best served by an open, robust contest for the Republican nomination for governor."

Ives has made some headway in Cook County with an endorsement by the Republicans of Wheeling Township organization.

Rather than seeing Ives as a quixotic choice, Wheeling Township Committeeman Ruth O'Connell thinks Rauner "hasn't accomplished anything" and Ives "has the better chance."

Ives' opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage won't sit well with the majority of Republicans in Cook and DuPage counties who are "strong fiscal conservatives and social moderates," countered Aaron Del Mar, Cook County Republican Central Committee deputy chairman.

Ives' opposition to sanctuary cities also means Hispanic Republicans are with the incumbent, Northfield banker and Republican Joseph Gomez predicted.

On the fiscal side, "there's no doubt the Republican business community will be with Rauner," Gomez said.

The Cook County Central Committee votes on endorsements Feb. 5.

"We're the battleground," Del Mar said. "I think (Ives will) do well in conservative areas and downstate. It will be uphill in Cook and DuPage."

Cook County lawmaker Tom Morrison of Palatine disagrees.

"Consider the numbers of Republican congressmen and General Assembly members who are staying on the fence or actively speaking up for Rep. Ives," he said. "By his own policy decisions, Bruce Rauner is a man without the base of support he needs to win in a general election."

Just-retired Addison Township Republican Chairman Pat Durante was shaken by Rauner's signing a bill allowing for Medicaid to be used for abortions.

But the veteran political observer said "the talk on the street is he'll beat Jeanne and Jeanne will pick up that hard-core base."

Could Ives beat the odds? "Sure," Durante said, "but she'll need more money and the base needs to work for her."

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Republican gubernatorial candidate state Rep. Jeanne Ives is flanked by local officials, from left, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Dan Patlak, Rep. Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee, Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, Wheatland Township Trustee Raquel Mitchell, Rep. Margo McDermed of Frankfort, Naperville Township Commissioner Warren Dixon and Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine. Courtesy of Jeanne Ives campaign
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