McHENRY – Bruce Rauner takes his bacon extra crispy, his eggs sunny side up and his milk whole.
Whether it’s his breakfast order, or his $18 watch in campaign ads, the Republican candidate for governor wants average voters to know he’s just like them. He’s fed up with how the state has been run, he wants to turn the state’s economy around, and he wants to bring a common sense business approach to the governor’s office – even though business has made him worth billions more than the average voter.
McHenry County residents had a chance to break bread with Rauner Tuesday during an intimate breakfast. The handful of people got to hear his plan for Illinois and ask questions about a variety of topics from mental health to job creation.
Rauner wants more jobs, lower taxes, better schools and term limits on politicians. He wants to “run Springfield more like a business” and wants to change workers’ compensation rules in Illinois.
But Rauner also took time to address the criticism he’s received lately from both Democrats and Republicans. Rauner took heat for flip-flopping on his stance on a minimum wage increase and contributing $250,000 to an elite Chicago public school after his daughter was admitted.
And after Rauner called out his fellow Republican candidates for not being more vocal against Democratic efforts to “hijack” the GOP race, Kirk Dillard called Rauner a “Democrat in sheep’s clothing.”
“We’re being bombed every day by [Pat] Quinn, by the Democrats, by Republican opponents, by the establishment, but that’s OK,” Rauner told the group. “They’re trying to throw mud but it’s not going to stick. I’m very proud of the fact they are attacking because leaders take arrows. I’m happy to take arrows.”
Despite what has been a largely negative couple of weeks for Rauner in terms of publicity, a Jan. 14 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll found him getting 34 percent of the vote from likely Republican primary voters, compared to 17 percent for Bill Brady, 15 percent for Dan Rutherford and 9 percent for Dillard.
“Things are going really well,” Rauner said. “They’re going so well that now we’re being bombed every day. People don’t talk about much of anything else. They just attack us. That’s a sign that we’re winning. Our message is scary to the career politicians.”
Residents asked Rauner about mental health services, which he believes in funding as long as the economy can afford them, and about how to keep jobs in Illinois, which he said can be done by lowering regulations and taxes.
And to rebuild the state’s economy, Rauner said ending political conflicts of interest is a must.
“They’re trying to spin me as being anti-union. I’m not anti-union,” he said. “I’m anti-conflict of interest. It’s the government unions, when they can bribe the politicians to give them free health care. Give them bigger pensions. Give them more pay … It pushes up our taxes and drives businesses out of our state.”
Ted Livengood, a self-described Republican activist, said he enjoyed hearing Rauner’s message, but he hasn’t made up his mind on who he will vote for.
“I like what Bruce says,” Livengood said. “But you know, politicians are politicians. I like the look in his face when he says it, so that’s a strong thing for me. That’s why I like to come out and talk to people in person. I haven’t made up my mind yet. But I like what Bruce has to say.”