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Who Can Beat Rauner in Illinois?

Don Rose 19 September 2017 3 Comments

Let ‘s momentarily leave  the bizarre menage-a- trois of Donald, Chuck and Nancy and return to Illinois Democrats’ main target, Governor Bruce “The Ruiner” Rauner. He’s the state’s least popular politician–with the possible exception of Speaker of the House and Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan.

But despite his low numbers, he has tons of money–a geyser of his own dollars, replenished by the state’s richest person, Ken Griffin. Remember, Trump was elected with numbers as low as Rauner’s.

More than a half dozen Dems have declared but filing comes in December. Most current evidence suggests it will be a two-and-a-half way primary  battle between businessman Chris Kennedy and liberal billionaire venture capitalist JB Pritzker , with a very outside chance for progressive State Senator Daniel Biss. No others have moved the needle yet, though Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar has a devoted following.


Kennedy, son of the late Attorney General Robert and nephew of the iconic President Jack, has led in most of the public polls despite virtually no political experience or exposure. He is best known for managing the Merchandise Mart, once the nation’s largest office building–and for being active in a number of useful charities. The rap on him is that while he’s great in one-on-one situations, he doesn’t come across well–sometimes even disdainfully–in the role of outgoing candidate.   His supporters all say he’s improving, but still needs work and there are several more months to go. He has not yet gone up with a TV campaign.

Pritzker, on the other hand, is almost impossible to avoid if you turn on your TV for an hour or two. He’s spent millions and prepared to spend anything necessary. He has the greatest political institutional support–Madigan and most of this blue state’s formidable Democratic party, plus strong labor backing. He too has led numerous good causes. He seems to be gaining on Kennedy because of all his excellent paid-media exposure.

Problem is, much news media exposure has been negative. He was recorded seeking a political job from the toxic then-Governor Rod Blagojevich, our most famous jailbird. He also gave Blago a $100,000 campaign donation and just coincidently Blago soon gave a million-dollar state grant to the Illinois Holocaust Museum–one of Pritzker’s most worthy causes.

Worse yet, Pritzker bought the house adjacent to his own on the Gold Coast of Chicago, but soon disconnected all the plumbing to get the place declared “uninhabitable” and got a huge property tax reduction for it. Weird doings even for Chicago.

The combination of Blagojevich and Madigan connections plus toilet disconnections are red meat for Rauner’s attack ads should Pritzker win the primary. You’ll see them day and night.  Right now he looks like a loser.

Biss, clearly the most experienced, progressive, good-government candidate has made a few stumbles and can’t compete financially. At the moment I don’t see a path past Kennedy and Pritzker for him to win the primary, let alone the general.

If Kennedy gets a good political makeover, at the moment he seems the best bet.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Maggie O said:

    You do your readership a disservice when you don’t write about all the candidates. We already have a billionaire in office and it won’t do the state of Illinois any good to replace one with another, especially with no legislative experience. I’m voting for Ameya Pawar because he is fresh, progressive and has legislative experience in Chicago city council. He also is the only candidate really talking about the issues our state faces with disinvestment, poverty vs. wealth and criminal justice reform. http://www.pawar2018.com

  • Doug J said:

    I think it’s unfortunate that these “in the bubble” pundits didn’t learn anything over the last 2 years. Just because someone doesn’t start off with millions of dollars in a PRIMARY, doesn’t mean they can’t compete. I’m going with Ameya Pawar because he’s demonstrated that he can beat the big money with a massive grassroots movement, like he did when he won his first election, despite the millions of dollars being spent against him.

  • Michael A. Buck said:

    Who can beat Bruce Rauner in Illinois ?

    He just beat himself.

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