Yes, America, Republicans Can Win in Illinois (Though Probably Not in 2014)
The Illinois Republican primary in the governor’s race is approaching its final month and it seems to be garnering more attention than usual. People outside of Illinois may not realize that Republicans do win in Illinois. One of the current U.S. Senators is listed as a Republican (though some think he shouldn’t be), and the GOP nominee for governor in 2010 lost by less than 1% — or about 30,000 votes — out of over 3.5 million cast.
It wasn’t that long ago when Republican Party victories in Illinois were much more common. The state senate was in Republican hands up until 2003 and the GOP had a 26-year long run in the governor’s mansion. What changed, some would argue, wasn’t the voting public — but, rather, the quality of the political personnel on the right. While the Democrats got more aggressive in taking their message to voters, nary a word was heard from Republicans.
The fact that Illinois Democrats have succeeded in making the state a fiscal laughingstock in the past several years makes some people think a Republican Party resurgence is right around the corner. Since there still is no state-wide Republican message, though, those who doubt it have a better case to make than the optimists. While the GOP is expected to have a good year nationally in 2014, once again it looks like that success will bypass Illinois.
The Democrats enjoy super-majorities in the General Assembly and the prognosticator has yet to be found that says the Dems will drop to simple majorities in November. Part of the problem is the Democratic Party drew a highly gerrymandered map. The larger problem, however, continues to be the GOP personnel problem. Some Illinois natives have chronicled this sad state of affairs for many years. Search of the archives here and here for examples.
If Republicans have any chance at all this year, it is to take back the governorship. Their four-way primary is therefore the biggest game in town. As the campaign turns toward the homestretch the biggest news stories focus on two brewing scandals.
The first is a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of the candidates. That candidate’s name is Mr. Dan Rutherford — long rumored to be a homosexual. The person suing is named Ed. The case is no surprise to anyone paying close attention — but almost no one expected Rutherford to win the primary anyway.
The second is a growing nursing home scandal where the care was so bad patients died. The company responsible was one of the many profit centers for the rich guy in the race, Bruce Rauner. The Rauner story might only be getting started as most people expect the millions being spent for TV ads to buy him the nomination.
If you thought the national Democrats were good at defining Mitt Romney, Illinois Democrats should have a field day with Bruce Rauner, whose millions far surpass Mitt’s. The more money, the more stories there are to tell.
Rumors are flying that Rauner supporters helped instigate the Rutherford sexual harassment lawsuit, and the Rauner campaign strenuously denies it. The latest plot twist is a report that a Rauner company “hired habitual sexual harasser” to head a media venture.
The state’s largest newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, which is expected to endorse Bruce Rauner in the primary and general, has been a lot more interested in the Rutherford story than anything having to do with Rauner’s nursing homes. Here’s Republican News Watch’s Cathy Santos describing the state of the campaign:
On March 18, Republican voters will decide which of four gubernatorial candidates to field against Governor Pat Quinn in November. In the meantime, we’re sure the media will keep ginning-up the rumor mill on Rutherford. That’s easy after all. And we definitely expect the Tribune to stay on Rutherford while it largely ignores Rauner. The Tribune’s “coverage” of Rauner’s nursing home problem was for example largely just aped from the campaign’s undocumented talking points.
The record is clear that Rauner was accepting of a chronic sexual harasser heading up his firm’s hundred million dollar investment. It may not matter for the GOP Primary as a lot of reporters and Republicans seem little concerned with doing their jobs.
But it’s likely that General Election voters – and especially female voters – are going to care once Quinn and the Democrats happily start the education the morning after the Primary.
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