McConnaughay told Rauner he couldn't pick his own replacement on ballot

  • Karen McConnaughay

    Karen McConnaughay

 
 
Updated 12/14/2018 5:45 PM

A former Republican state senator from St. Charles confirmed she was recruited by outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner to replace him on the ballot shortly after he won the March primary.

Karen McConnaughay said Rauner approached her in April about taking his place, but she quickly rebuffed his proposal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was concerned in my conversations that he didn't really understand that if he really did want to take his name off the ballot, that he couldn't just pick a replacement," she said. "He hadn't sought any counsel about the process, so he couldn't understand it."

McConnaughay, who resigned from the Senate in September to begin work in the private sector, was one of four people -- two women and two men -- Rauner tried to recruit to take his spot on the November ballot, according to an interview he granted ABC 7. Rauner did not name the people he tried to recruit, but ABC 7 and other media cited sources who identified McConnaughay, former GOP Illinois attorney general candidate Erika Harold and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as three of the individuals.

"I told them I'll step aside, give you huge financial resources. You run for governor, and I'll support you. You have as good or better chance to get elected than me," Rauner said in the television interview. "All four of them said 'no.' Too tough, too unlikely, too difficult."

McConnaughay said she had "no clue" if she was the first person Rauner approached or the last. She also never told anyone but close friends about Rauner's offer, not even Republican Party leadership.

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"That's not my responsibility," she said. "The only reason I'm talking about it now is because he went on TV and decided to share it, so fine, I'm going to be honest. The whole concept that a sitting governor was out looking for a candidate to replace him was a serious, volatile thing."

Elected to the Senate in 2012, McConnaughay said that while Rauner and she didn't always agree, Rauner thought she had a better shot at beating Democrat J.B. Pritzker, now the governor-elect, because "just essentially my politics, my stance on the issues, being female and being a suburbanite."

In the end, McConnaughay said the conversation mostly focused on the protocols of replacing him on the ballot and her trying to explain to him that it's not something he gets to do in a vacuum.

"It was not the kind of conversation you could take seriously, because he had not contemplated the process of how any of that would work," she said. "To replace a sitting person on the ballot is the work of the party, not a hand-picked choice. I was flattered that he thought of me, but there's a whole process to this, and I told him to do careful consideration to all of that before you have conversations with people about replacing him on the ballot."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rauner told ABC 7 he believed President Donald Trump's election played a part in dooming his re-election bid, but McConnaughay said he made no mention of that to her. Trump did not win Illinois, losing the state significantly to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"When Trump won the White House but lost Illinois ... that changed that dynamic from a good chance at re-election to very difficult chance at reelection," Rauner said in the interview.

Rauner wound up losing to Pritzker by 16 points in November after one term in office.

• ABC 7 Chicago contributed to this story.

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