Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner won a tougher-than-expected victory in the GOP primary for governor yesterday in large part because the state’s biggest teachers’ union swung its backing behind his moderate primary opponent. The Illinois Education Association urged members, who typically vote in Democratic primaries, to instead vote for GOP state senator Kirk Dillard, who infamously cut an ad for the Obama campaign in 2007 before the Iowa caucuses, in which he lauded the future president for working across party lines in the Illinois state senate.
Rauner beat Dillard yesterday 40–37.
The ad was a black mark against Dillard with conservatives this year, just as it was in 2010 when he wound up losing the GOP primary for governor by just 193 votes. Last year, Dillard also opposed a modest pension-reform law that passed Illinois’s Democratic legislature over the objections of public-employee unions.
But the union strategy almost worked, as the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined the teachers’ union in urging a vote for Dillard and union-backed attack ads tried to discredit Rauner. More than twice as many votes were cast in the Republican primary this year as in the Democratic primary — a clear sign Democratic poseurs were trying to influence the Republican race. Chicago’s PBS station reported:
The move underscores the sentiment public employee unions have toward GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner, who has targeted ‘corrupt union bosses’ in his campaign, supported more charter schools, and advocated that public employees move away from a pension plan and into a 401K.
Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Aviva Bowen said of her union’s intervention: “It speaks to how critical this election is, and how important it is for us to inform our members.
Having survived the first union onslaught, Rauner will now take on Democratic governor Pat Quinn, who is already blasting him as an a rich, out-of-touch Mitt Romney clone.
But Quinn is saddled with having little to show for his 67 percent hike in the state’s income-tax rate other than a high unemployment rate, a listless economy, and soaring government debt. Rauner is a moderate on social issues, but given Quinn’s support for gay marriage, outlawing the death penalty, and medical marijuana, most political observers think he can hold down the conservative base by making inroads with suburban voters who are tired of Democratic machine rule.