The Race for Illinois Governor

The race for Illinois Governor pits four Republicans against two Democrats, though realistically the incumbent will probably win the Democratic primary. While all four Republican poll above Governor Pat Quinn (D-Chicago), the race features a near-billionaire, a State Treasurer embroiled in a sex scandal, the 2010 Republican nominee, and fellow who praised Obama in a campaign ad. Just to spoil the joke, yes, those are four different people.

Elephant, Donkey sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.Reboot Illinois has a candidate questionnaire. I link to the Republican side, because the Democrat side really isn’t a race. Governor Pat Quinn will almost certainly be the Democrat nominated.


Bill Brady In 2010, Republicans lost the governorship of Illinois by about 30,000 votes out of over 3,000,000, winning 99 of 102 counties. At the height of the Tea Party momentum, and in the wake of the Rod Blagojevich Senate Seat Sale Scandal, the Republican nominee was up 7 points going into the final weekend, and lost. Many blamed nominee State Senator Bill Brady’s strategy of focusing his campaign in Republican-friendly downstate areas, while spending little time in vital Cook County (Chicago).

Rodney Davis, then Executive Director of the Illinois Republican Party and now representing IL-13 in Congress, blamed the loss on pro-abortion ads in the Chicago market the final weekend, specifically, ads designed to scare pro-choice Democrats into voting, and to keep pro-choice Republican women from the polls. But the details of ads and final weekend numbers aside, losing a race you’re leading shows that the get out the vote effort generally failed. Given the favorable conditions, the result should have been a resounding win. Campaigning this year, Brady says his loss taught him a number of lessons, including the value of campaigning on the issues, spending time in Cook County, and above all, campaigning to run up the score, rather than merely to win. “There is no substitute for experience,” Brady said.

Brady is a fiscal and social conservative, known for active pursuit of fiscal reform within the Democrat-dominated statehouse.

Bruce Rauner With a personal fortune estimated at about $700 million, venture capitalist Rauner has never run for office before. He spent 2013 criss-crossing the state, visiting county GOP meetings and similar gatherings to make himself known inside the Party. As an Illinois businessman, Rauner donated to Democratic candidates including to friend and business associate Rahm Emanuel. Since 2008, however, Rauner’s giving has increased dramatically, including financing the Illinois Republican Party when few others would.

Rauner has led the primary field in fund raising, at over $11 million, of which he personally has given his campaign about $4 million.

Attacks against Rauner have centered on his personal wealth. Opponents have also held him responsible for nursing home negligence after a buyout by his firm.

Rauner allowed himself to be bullied into supporting a federal minimum wage increase.

While he has been running as a social conservative, many believe he’s more moderate.

Dan Rutherford State Treasurer Dan Rutherford called earlier in the race to leave social issues out of the primary, despite the certainty that Democrats will run on them. That was because Rutherford, while officially pro-life, knows he has a hard time defending his position. He had cast a vote for same-sex unions in the 2010 lame duck session.

On January 31, a bombshell dropped. Rutherford called a press conference to announce that a member of his Treasurer’s office staff had lodged an unspecified work-related complaint against him. The staff member, through his lawyer, had asked for a $300,000 severance settlement in exchange for his silence. Rutherford charged the Rauner campaign of being behind the accusations.

With great fanfare and charges that his opponents were behind his accuser, Rutherford commissioned an independent investigation, which seemed a little odd, when we all thought about the possible outcomes. Would anyone believe a positive report? That turns out not to have been likely:

The first person to be interviewed brought a recording device and recorded his interview. He reportedly laid out all the goods he had on Rutherford, and it wasn’t pretty.

When it came time to reveal the results of the publicly funded report, he refused:

Having ostentatiously ordered up — at taxpayer expense — an investigation that he said would clear him of charges codified in a federal lawsuit against him, Rutherford now has lawyered up. His office won’t release the report of that investigation. The logical conclusion is that Rutherford ordered the probe not because it would serve some public purpose, but instead to gather information that might prove useful in his eventual legal defense. 

Rutherford canceled TV ad buys Tuesday. Whether that’s because money is tight, or because the ads aren’t helping him, or because he’s planning to drop out of the race to spend more time with his lawyers, we don’t know.

Kirk Dillard State Senator Kirk Dillard is the former Chief of Staff to moderate Governor Jim Edgar, the most recent Illinois Governor not to go to prison after leaving office. Dillard is fond of big spending projects like high speed rail for economic development.

Dillard famously appeared in an ad for Barack Obama in 2008 saying the two worked well together in the State Senate. This is the same State Senate in which Barack Obama supported infanticide.

Dillard is backed by the Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. Dillard and surrogate have asked Rutherford and Brady to drop out of the race:

“Well, I really would hope the Republican County Chairmen’s Association would be the group that would try to galvanize our party,” Dillard said. “It is very clear, unfortunately, that the state treasurer who has had allegations of sexual harassment and political dealings on state time is now unelectable. And Bill Brady proved in 2010 that even with a tailwind where we elected a number of Republican congressmen, he was unelectable.”

As explained above, the statewide GOTV effort, which focused on call centers and avoidED door-to-door precinct walks, was the creature of the state party machine, not the individual candidates. Brady narrowly beat Dillard in the primary in 2010, which doesn’t speak well of Dillard’s own chances that year.

This year, many social conservatives are backing Dillard.