Metro-East News

Political analysis: Rauner most vulnerable among GOP governors

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. AP

A national political report has listed Gov. Bruce Rauner as the most vulnerable Republican governor running for re-election in 2018.

The Cook Political Report has put the Illinois governor’s race in the toss-up column for November 2018 as Rauner seeks a second term.

But Republicans say they’re confident voters will appreciate Rauner’s fight against tax increases and his efforts to improve the state’s economy.

In November 2018, 36 gubernatorial elections are set to take place around the country.

Rauner’s governorship is deemed the most vulnerable out of the 27 GOP governorships the Republican Party hopes to defend during the upcoming election cycle, the Cook Political Report said.

The analysis by Cook comes as Rauner and the Democratically-controlled General Assembly have been in a two-year budget impasse. Rauner’s approval rating has suffered amid the struggle to come up with a budget agreement.

“Rauner has been under siege for much of his term in a standoff with the Democratic-controlled legislature over the state’s budget — or rather the lack of one,” The Cook analysis said.

A poll conducted in March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale had Rauner’s approval at 35.8 percent. Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan had an approval rating of 25.8 percent.

A poll released in April conducted by Morning Consult had Rauner’s approval rating at 42 percent.

Rauner has been under siege for much of his term in a stand off with the Democratic-controlled legislature over the state’s budget — or rather the lack of one.

The Cook Political Report

“As a Republican in a very blue state, Rauner is the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election next year,” The Cook Political Report said.

Despite the analysis and Rauner’s approval rating, the Illinois Republican Party remains undaunted headed into the 2018 election.

“Voters will have a clear choice next election between a governor fighting for reform and a Mike Madigan puppet who just wants to raise taxes and protect the status quo,” said Steven Yaffe, a spokesman for the Illinois GOP. “We are confident in the outcome.”

Preparing for the general election, Rauner has put 50 million into his own campaign account. He also received a $20 million donation from hedge fund founder Ken Griffin.

Voters will have a clear choice next election between a governor fighting for reform and a Mike Madigan puppet who just wants to raise taxes and protect the status quo. We are confident in the outcome.

Steven Yaffe, a spokesman for the Illinois GOP

Democrats have lined up to run against the Republican billionaire.

The field for the Democratic nomination includes Chicago billionaire J.B. Pritzker, Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber and state Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston.

Pritzker has put $14.2 million of his own wealth into his campaign fund.

“The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is billionaire J.B. Pritzker, whose willingness to spend his personal wealth erases Rauner’s financial advantage,” the Cook Report wrote.

Having a candidate who can go toe-to-toe with Rauner’s financial resources is key to competing, said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea.

“I really wish it wasn’t that way. I think the money in politics is absolutely insane and (has) gotten carried away,” Hoffman said during a recent interview. “That’s all a result of the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s the playing field we’re playing on.”

Hoffman, who was among the St. Clair County Democrats to vote in favor of endorsing Pritzker for the Democratic nomination, said he expects Rauner to invest more money in the race.

“It’s going to take a certain amount of money to be able to compete. Rauner already has $70 million committed,” Hoffman said. “Knowing how much he makes a year, he’s probably going to commit even more. That shouldn’t be our first thought picking a candidate, but you have to be able to compete on that playing field. If you don’t have resources, you’re not going to be able to.”

He added, “I don’t think that means the individual has to be a person who’s a billionaire, but you’re going to have to raise a substantial amount of money to run against the hundreds of millions of dollars Rauner is going to spend.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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