Rauner's the man for GOP
Businessman Bruce Rauner has demonstrated that he has the resources and the message to represent the Republican Party in this year's race for governor.
The state of Illinois has fallen into a state of disgrace.
If ever there was a time for repudiation of the corrupt, incompetent status quo, this is it. Each of the four candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination contends that he's the guy who can, if elected, restore Illinois to good health. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady and businessman Bruce Rauner are vying for voters' blessing in the March 18 primary. Our endorsement goes to Rauner, who has demonstrated great ability in his business career and promises the kind of systemic change Illinois needs if it is ever to regain the respect of its citizens.
There is much to be said about Rauner's vision for Illinois. But our choice was determined as much by his three opponents as by him.
Brady, Dillard and Rutherford are all capable men, but none can deliver the message of dramatic change and each has an undeniable weakness.
Rutherford has a long history as a state legislator and treasurer and, in our view, has done a solid job. But recent litigation alleging that he sexually harassed a subordinate while at the same time ordering that employee to do political work on taxpayer time has put his campaign under a cloud from which he cannot escape.
Brady insists that he's the only candidate who can defeat Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn. But he was the party's 2010 nominee against Quinn, and he lost. To nominate him again is to invite another defeat.
That leaves two viable choices, Dillard and Rauner.
In our view, Dillard would make a fine governor. But he ran for the party nomination in 2010, losing narrowly in the primary to Brady. This year, he's again failed to generate much excitement among the party faithful; his most recent improvement in the polls is driven by donations from public employee unions trying to dirty up Rauner as a prelude to an ever-stronger smear effort in the general election. Dillard's union support isn't generated so much by enthusiasm for Dillard as it is fear of and hostility to Rauner.
As for Rauner, he's new to politics, having spent his entire career in the private sector and building multimillionaire, perhaps billionaire, status. His Republican, Democratic and union opponents have vilified him for his financial success; but Rauner's story reflects the American dream.
Rauner is using that honestly earned wealth to run an extremely well-financed campaign that has him holding a big lead in public opinion polls. Unlimited campaign funds are a huge advantage, but what's most important is that Rauner has used that advantage to deliver an appealing message to voters.
Put simply, he wants to destroy the failed status quo in state government. In our view, that's Job One if Illinois ever is to put itself on the right track.
Our elected officials have made so many short-sighted, politically driven decisions — our public pensions are just one area of grotesque political malpractice — that Illinois is a shell of its former self.
Some of the fault rests with Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democrats, but Republicans have been complicit in this bipartisan fiasco.
Illinois' finances are a disaster. Illinois' business climate is so hostile to job creators that its unemployment rate is among the highest of the 50 states. Corruption has been and is now such an ugly fact of life that people joke about it rather than express outrage.
The question about Rauner is whether he, a businessman with no real background in politics, can deliver on some or all of his promises in the face of what will surely be Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
Maybe, maybe not. But it's obvious that Rauner is serious about systemic change, that he's willing either to confront opponents or work with them to achieve his goals — whether it's to straighten out the budget mess without another tax increase or to improve education so that young people get the skills they need to find employment or to reorganize government programs so that they operate in an efficient manner and serve the public rather than the people who administer them.
Rauner has spoken often of his desire to replicate the success former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had in transforming the Hoosier state. Daniels, too, declared war on the status quo, although Indiana's problems paled in comparison to Illinois' problems, and changed the way government operated by relentlessly focusing on making constant improvements in the delivery of services and the more efficient handling of tax dollars.
It's our hope — perhaps wistful — that Rauner could, if elected, meet that standard. It's our belief that he certainly would try his best. For that reason, The News-Gazette recommends Rauner to Republican primary voters.