URBANA — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says his goals for changing Illinois government now include installing term limits.
"I'm running to accomplish four things," the wealthy Winnetka businessman told a small, sun-drenched crowd outside TCT Construction in Urbana on Tuesday afternoon. "More jobs, lower taxes, better schools and term limits, so that every politician in Springfield gets kicked out of office after eight years."
Later, though, while talking to reporters, Rauner declined to offer specifics, saying "we don't have details on it yet," but that an announcement was forthcoming.
He said only that "I'd like to do it right away, as part of this election process" in 2014.
Rauner had not mentioned favoring term limits earlier in his campaign, either at appearances in Champaign-Urbana or in speeches available on his campaign's website.
"It's always been in our plan," he said. "We're emphasizing it more now."
Rauner continued to blame labor unions and their influence on Democrats and Republicans for most of the problems in Illinois government.
"When you peel the onion away, the real problem in this state is that the government union bosses, the guys who make their money from the taxpayers, from your pocketbook. They own Springfield. They are running it for their own benefit," said Rauner. "They bought a lot of the Democratic politicians in Springfield, and they bought, unfortunately, a lot of the Republican politicians in Springfield too. The career politicians use that government union money for their re-elections. It's a conflict of interest with the taxpayers. It's the reason the pensions are outrageously generous and broke. It's the reason our spending is out of control. We've got to take them on, just like (former Gov.) Mitch Daniels did in Indiana."
Rauner said he wouldn't name names. "Nobody that I'm going to name right now," he said.
The 53-year-old venture capitalist said he was glad to see Attorney General Lisa Madigan decline to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
"Her family is part of the corruption in the state. The voters don't want concentrated power. They don't want family dynasties," he said. "We've got the same thing developing with the whole Daley-Emanuel machine. I am vehemently against (Democrat William) Daley being governor because Chicago already has that corruption and that patronage and the problems."
Rauner, however, has contributed $200,000 to the campaign of Mayor Richard M. Daley and has supported Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I worked with the mayors on school reform. Where the mayors were willing to do the right thing and battle the teachers' union and get in charter school and advocate for vouchers or scholarships for poor kids, where they advocated merit pay for teachers and principals, I worked with them," Rauner said.
Dave Crow, owner of TCT Construction, said he liked Rauner because "he's pro-business. The taxpayers deserve better leadership. We can't continue the same way we've been. We're in the bottom of everything. Finances are bad, the education is bad. You name it, it's all bad. Something has to change."
But local Republicans at Rauner's event Tuesday were noncommittal about the four announced GOP contenders for governor: Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Bill Brady of Bloomington.
"I think it's going to be wide open," said Republican County Auditor John Farney.
"I would say it's too early," said GOP county Chairman Habeeb Habeeb. "I honestly think we'll know a little more in the coming weeks."
John Bambenek of Champaign, who ran for state senator last year, said local Republicans are undecided, but he thinks Rauner and Rutherford are ahead statewide.
"Dan Rutherford to his great credit spent four years helping Republicans up and down the ticket all over the state get elected," Bambenek said. "Bruce Rauner has the resources to compete. He's raising a lot of money, but he can put in a lot of his own too."
"(Bill) Brady had a shot and from what I can tell most of the people who were around him in the last campaign are not around him the second time. Kirk Dillard — a lot of the people he would raise money from have already given money to Bruce Rauner. Dillard doesn't have the strong grass-roots connections."
A "big variable," Bambenek insisted, is whether conservative broadcaster Dan Proft gets into the gubernatorial race.
"Dan Proft would bring something to the race that a lot of people are looking for. There's a fair amount of the Republican primary electorate who would just like to burn it down," he said of the state government.
In the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary in Champaign County, Brady finished first with 49 percent and Dillard got 27 percent. The remaining five candidates each got less than 10 percent, including Proft who received 4 percent.