Tom Kacich: Rauner's focus will soon shift to Chicago
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus had words of warning for Edgar County Republicans: Don't expect to see gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner in downstate Illinois after Labor Day.
"He's been all over southern and central Illinois," Shimkus, the longtime congressman from Colinsville, told about 75 members of the GOP in Paris last week. "But we're advising him that after he's through with this massive swing (through 38 downstate counties after the Illinois State Fair), you know where he needs to be? He needs to be in the suburbs and he needs to be in Cook County to win this for us.
"You're all going to have to be part of this. You're going to have to tell your friends and neighbors when they say, 'He's never here. He's from up in Chicago. He doesn't know us.' Well, you can dispel that myth."
Rauner explained his Cook County strategy to the downstaters.
"We've got to campaign hard around Chicago," he said. "It's critical. If we just take the mindset that Cook County is just, you know, another country, that allows Cook County to be consolidated under the machine. And it's so big that Cook County runs the rest of the state. No more. No more. That ain't right."
It sounds a lot like the message State Treasurer Dan Rutherford delivered 18 months ago when he was making his own case for governor.
"You've gotta have Douglas and Pulaski (counties), but what are you doing in the 42nd Ward of the city of Chicago? That has more votes in it than Douglas and Pulaski combined. That's ultimately what it's going to get down to," Rutherford said at the time. "What it's going to get down to is, who can reach into the communities of diversity, the people who are brown and yellow, the people who are Hindu and Punjabi, and not just all the Christians because Illinois is a dramatic mosaic?"
Rauner's saying the same things today.
"I'm going to campaign hard in every community, in every county and in every neighborhood. I'm asking for votes from everybody. I'm campaigning in the Chinese-American community, in the Indian-American community and the Polish-American community and the Hispanic community. I'm speaking at about two or three African-American churches every Sunday."
But will he be able to deliver for a party whose gubernatorial candidate four years ago — state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington — got 17.4 percent in Chicago and 39.5 percent in suburban Cook County?
"I don't have a specific goal but I really want to do well" in Cook County, he said. "We're already leading in the polls by a good margin in the Cook County suburbs. We're losing in Chicago and I don't think I can win in Chicago. That's not going to happen. But I think I can do decently well in Chicago. I think the polls showed us at about 20 percent in Chicago. I think if we're in the low 20s we'll be good."
Numbers like that in Chicago would a big improvement over the last three Republican gubernatorial contenders, who got between 15.3 percent and 18.8 percent in the city. As Rutherford said, "You've got to have at least 20 (percent) or you'll never win a race."
For proof, see the results of the 1998 race where Republican George Ryan got 31 percent in the city to Glen Poshard's 67 percent. Ryan is the last Republican governor in Illinois.
"We've got to become a two-party state again. We've become a one-party state," Rauner said. "We've had one party for 12 years driving us into the ditch. We've got to make a Republican Party that is strong and vibrant and I'm all in to do that."
There was great irony in one aspect of Rauner's appearance in Edgar County. He was joined by two veteran Republican lawmakers.
"We have two of the great public servants in Illinois and America right here with us, John Shimkus and Chapin Rose," Rauner said of the 16-year congressman and the 11-year state legislator.
The irony, of course, is that Rauner wants term limits — eight years — on state politicians like Rose.
Perhaps an even greater irony is that Shimkus campaigned on a platform that said he would serve 12 years and get out of Congress. He abandoned that pledge in 2005.
"I believe we should have term limits on all the politicians in Springfield," Rauner said to booming applause. "They would leave office after eight years.
"We need Springfield to work for the people again, and they're not there to make money from their political power and it ain't a lifestyle and it ain't a business for them. They should be working for the people, taking some tough votes and making some good decisions and then leaving office and going back to the real world."
As the rest of the crowd applauded enthusiastically, I watched Rose. I'd characterize his applause as polite.
Term limits is a big theme in Rauner's campaign ("When I go there and I say, 'Hey, I'm not taking a salary, I'm not taking a pension and I want term limits, everybody cheers. It's the right answer," he said).
Later I asked Rose what he thought of Rauner's position. He smiled and said, "I'll get out if (House Speaker Michael Madigan) does, but I'm not going to do it unilaterally."
Democrat/Republican softball game
Champaign County Young Democrats will play the Champaign County Young Republicans in a 12-inch softball game next Sunday to benefit the Untied Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program. The game will be played at 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at Dodds Park, 150-1 N. Mattis Ave., C.
Although there is no charge to attend the game, sponsorships from $50 to $1,000 are being sold, and those proceeds will go to the United Way program.
Players for Team Blue will include Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom, Champaign County Board members Joshua Hartke and Michael Richards, 15th Congressional District candidate Eric Thorsland, and candidates for county board Scott Redenbaugh, Shana Harrison, and C. Pius Weibel.
Players for Team Red will include Champaign County Auditor John Farney, Champaign County Board members Jeff Kibler and Jim McGuire, candidate for county board Tom Grey, Champaign County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Harrison, and chairman of the Champaign County Young Republicans Chris Beaird.
Serving as umpires will be Seth Fein of the online magazine, Smile Politely, and yours truly.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.