LAKEWOOD – When considering whether to run for governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner’s youngest daughter voiced her opposition early.
“My youngest daughter says, ‘Daddy don’t run for governor, I don’t want you to go to jail,’ ” the Republican hopeful said in front of McHenry County business leaders Tuesday at Turnberry Country Club in Lakewood.
The comment drew laughs from the crowd, but it hit on one of the more serious issues of his campaign: How can a relatively unknown venture capitalist gain the trust of Illinois voters for a political position where four of the last seven officeholders have gone to prison?
The answer, Rauner said, is to hit the road and introduce himself to the voters.
Even before he officially entered the governor’s race in June, Rauner traveled the state on what his campaign called a “listening tour.” He has been holding town hall-style meetings across the state and explained Tuesday to area business leaders how he would fix Illinois’ economic troubles.
“We’re the worst-run state in America,” Rauner said. “You name the issue. Unfunded pensions. Debt. Deficits. Out-of-control spending. Rising taxes. … It’s outrageous what’s being done to the people of Illinois.”
Rauner said if elected he would focus on three things: job growth, creating more transparency and government efficiency in Springfield, and making Illinois a leader in education and training. And he would do it in eight years by imposing term limits on himself and every elected official in Springfield.
But, Rauner said, fixing Illinois’ fiscal house is his No. 1 priority.
“Nothing else is more important than building the future of economic activity, businesses and jobs in Illinois,” he said. “If we don’t have a booming economy, we can’t afford health care. We can’t afford good schools. Our children can’t have a good future. … We want to encourage an environment where companies want to invest, grow and thrive in Illinois.”
Rauner said lowering taxes and cutting some red tape for businesses is key to changing the regulatory climate in Illinois and improving investments in the state.
On the pension crisis, Rauner wants to change the state and local government pension system to more of a 401(k)-style plan.
“[Government employees] don’t deserve a gold-plated retirement at age 52 where they make more than they made while they were working,” he said.
He said he wants to invest in education and hold schools and teachers accountable for results.
“I don’t think there should be tenure in the schools,” Rauner said. “That doesn’t exist anywhere else in our society. If you’re a good teacher, you should get rewarded. If you’re an ineffective teacher, you should be helped and try to improve. But if you don’t improve, do a different career.”
But Rauner, whose run for Illinois governor is his first venture into politics, knows he will need to continue to reach out to voters and highlight his business success if he’s going to overtake some of the better-known Republican candidates.
“Everything I’ve done in my career, whether it’s building an investment firm and driving great results, investing in successful businesses, turning around the tourism bureau in Chicago … I just drive results in everything that I’ve done,” he said. “And I want to drive results for the people of this state.”
Tuesday's luncheon was put on by several area chambers of commerce, including Algonquin Lake in the Hills, Cary Grove Area, Crystal Lake, Hampshire, Huntley, McHenry Area, Northern Kane County, Richmond Spring Grove, and Woodstock.
Other Republicans seeking their party’s nomination in the 2014 race for governor are state Sen. Bill Brady, state Sen. Kirk Dillard and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Declared Democratic candidates are incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and former White House Chief of Staff William Daley.