In the March 20 Primary, Illinois Republicans will select a candidate they believe will be most successful in enacting a conservative agenda and most likely to defeat the Democratic nominee in a contest for the state’s highest position: governor. As the commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces as well as the individual in charge of appointing non-elected government officials, the governor is arguably the most powerful person in Illinois (aside from House Speaker Mike Madigan).
Why You Should Care
Illinois was once the crossroads of America, but now its economy is sputtering. With the second highest property taxes in the country and nearly $400 billion in unfunded pension plans, Illinois an economic recovery. Although the legislature is the one to propose the state’s budget, the Governor of Illinois has extensive veto power, appoints state workers to many agencies, and has the power to reorganize state departments and grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations. Incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner ran in 2014 on a reform message, he was an outsider to the political world in a state where five of the last ten governors had been charged with crimes during their term. Primary voters will decide whether they should grant Rauner another four years to complete his mission, or whether he lacked the initiative to create lasting change. This year, the likely nominee for the Republicans is Governor Bruce Rauner. According to recent polling, he leads state Representative Jeanne Ives by twenty points.
Rauner, sixty-one, was born in Chicago, and grew up in an upper middle class family living at times in Deerfield and Lake Forest, IL and Scottsdale, AZ. He graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1978 with a degree in economics and received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1981. Originally interested in environmental science, Rauner switched to economics believing his philanthropic impact could be greatest if he made a significant amount of money first. Since graduating Dartmouth, he has donated millions to the school leaving his mark across campus (Rauner Dorm, Rauner Special Collections Library, etc.). Having graduated business school, he returned to the Chicagoland area and joined private equity firm Golder Thoma Cressey. Since that time, he became Chairman of the company (now named GTCR) and has amassed a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars (in 2016, he earned $91 million). Before running for public office, he was extensively involved in financing charter school programs in Chicago. Rauner has been married twice and has six adult children.
Riding a wave of government reform and anti-corruption frustration, Rauner defeated incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn (see: 2018 Attorneys General primary) in the 2014 governor’s race, spending a record $26 million of his own money. In the campaign, he promised to “shake up Springfield” while in office and released policy briefs on his plans to freeze property tax increases and institute term limits for state legislators. Several of his promises have fallen short over the past three years and his time as Governor has been largely associated with the state’s two-year budget impasse, likely the longest in state history. Since entering office, Rauner has vetoed every budget, citing their fiscal imbalance and lack of significant pension reform, but Republican legislatures joined Democrats last summer and overrode his veto. With the budget deal and its associated tax hike in place, Illinois’s creditworthiness avoided being downgraded to “junk” status, but 33,703 still left the state in 2017 and $16 billion in overdue bills remain. Rauner blames House Speaker Mike Madigan for Illinois’s present economic condition. The Democrat, who has spent thirty-two years as House Speaker (the longest in American history), crafts every piece of legislation that reaches Rauner’s desk and his political machinations have become a focal point of Rauner’s reelection campaign (Rauner’s campaign even labelled primary challenger Ives a “Madigan lackey”). In terms of successes, the incumbent governor would point to laws and executive orders he signed including automatic voter registration, juvenile record expungement, charter school equity, new ethical standards for state workers, government contract bidding transparency, and public sector union membership reform. Rauner wants a second term because he acknowledges that many of the promises made in his first campaign went unfulfilled, but believes he is best positioned to oppose Madigan’s omnipresent power over Illinois.
Rauner is running again with Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, the first Hispanic woman to occupy the post. He has been endorsed by the Cook County Republican Party, seven state legislators, three neighboring governors, both Chicago dailies, among others.
Ives, fifty-three, grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota. She graduated from West Point in 1987 with a degree in economics and served in the US Army for the next six years. Ives was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2012, where she has seen just five of her 134 introduced bills become law. In the state House, she has become known more for her opposition to legislation than her support. She described her “best work” as “actually getting traction on killing legislation that is bad, not necessarily passing legislation.” She has opposed efforts to mandate non-abstinence education, ban bump stocks, provide state funds to school districts lacking sufficient property tax revenue, and legalize medical marijuana. In the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Ives endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Ives is married and lives with her five school-age children in Wheaton.
Although she agrees with Rauner on many economic and government reform initiatives, she decided to launch a primary challenge against Bruce Rauner because he signed into law a bill expanding Medicaid coverage to abortions outside of the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Citing the concerns of her fellow conservative lawmakers and voters, she believes Rauner lied to Illinois Republicans about his 2014 campaign promise to steer clear of hot-button social issues. Since then, she has charged Rauner with governing out of step with the party’s conservative base by signing a bill that made Illinois a “sanctuary state,” not doing enough to stop last year’s income tax hike, and easing restrictions for people to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. Borrowing some her rhetoric from the Democratic primary, she has labelled Rauner a lame duck Governor, highlighting both the National Review’s evaluation of him as the “Worst Republican Governor in America” and his own admission that he is “not in charge” in Springfield. Last month, she drew controversy by airing an ad during the Super Bowl that featured several caricatures of Democratic voters thanking Rauner for his continued support of their social agenda.
Ives is running with Rock Island County Board member and former state Representative Richard Morthland. She has been endorsed by the Chicago Republican Party, nine state legislators, the Illinois Family Institute, Taxpayers United of America, among others.
To learn more, we recommend reader's check out the following links:
- Watch the Chicago Tribune Debate
The featured image is licensed under the Creative Commons; the original can be found here.
Brett Barbin is a third-year Public Policy and Political Science double-major, interested in American history, geography, and political rhetoric. Last year, he served as the Deputy Political Director for Senator Mark Kirk’s reelection campaign and previously acted as a research intern for the Michael Smerconish Program. On campus, Brett is the secretary of College Republicans and a member of the Political Union. He enjoys exploring Chicago, collecting books, and reading way too much into public opinion polls.