Unions, Groups ’All-In’ Illinois Governor’s Race
The candidates for Illinois governor laid out their vastly different visions Wednesday on how to revive the state’s lagging economy, as national labor unions and other outside groups with much riding on the outcome began making their presence felt and promised to keep doing so through the November election.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and wealthy Republican businessman Bruce Rauner won their primary races Tuesday, setting up what’s expected to be one the hardest fought and most expensive races in the nation.
Quinn, who has made a political career as a populist and defender of the middle class, has increased taxes and pushed for raising the minimum wage. Rauner, who says the best way to help working people is to improve the business climate, wants to curtail government unions much like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did.
Republicans see President Barack Obama’s home state - one of the Midwest’s last Democratic strongholds - as one of their top two opportunities to pick up a governorship, largely because of Illinois’ massive financial problems. On Wednesday the Republican Governors Association donated $750,000 to Rauner’s campaign, money intended to show the group is "all-in" to defeat Quinn.
"We definitely see it as a winnable race, and we’re going to be highly involved," said RGA communications director Jon Thompson.
The Democratic Governors Association and organized labor also say a Quinn victory will be a top priority, as unions try to avoid the kinds of blows they’ve felt under GOP governors in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Organized labor spent millions on ads during the primary that attacked Rauner, who has called Walker and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels his role models.
"The last thing Illinois needs is a governor who looks out for the wealthiest among us while turning his back on the middle-class, and we plan to hold Rauner accountable every step of the way," said Michael Murray, spokesman for the union coalition.
Quinn, who is seeking a second term, began airing his first campaign ad focused on Rauner’s changing stance on minimum wage during Tuesday’s primary. Quinn wants to raise Illinois’ $8.25 wage to at least $10. Rauner said he’d like to lower it then later said he’d raise it under the right circumstances.
On Wednesday, Quinn held a news conference at a Chicago construction site, where he thanked union members and then drew attention to Rauner’s wealth. The multimillionaire spent more than $14 million on the GOP primary, including more than $6 million of his own money.