CHICAGO (AP) — When superrich Republican Bruce Rauner decided to run for governor of Illinois, it was clear this wouldn’t be the kind of race the state was accustomed to. Rauner, who made his fortune as a venture capitalist, was new to campaigning and bragged of being beholden to no one. He came out swinging at entrenched special interests and “government union bosses” with an intensity not seen before.
Organized labor, which has long had cordial relations with state Republicans, went to full battle stations. Unions have pumped millions of dollars into a television advertising offensive to counter the new threat in advance of the March 18 primary. And Rauner has already committed more than $6 million from his own bank account to the battle.
The furious pace and extraordinary cost of a race weeks before the general election field is even set demonstrates what can happen when a wealthy businessman decides he wants to run a state, and of how unions can react when they feel especially threatened.
Both sides— having watched labor lose power under Republican governors in surrounding states — are fighting as though more than a single office is at stake.
“I think all the national unions fear they’ll have another Scott Walker on their hands if he should come in,” said Don Rose, a longtime Chicago political analyst, referring to the Republican governor of Wisconsin who stripped state employee unions of most of their bargaining powers after his election in 2010.
And Republicans, who have not controlled the Illinois governor’s mansion since 2003, see the race as the way to re-establish the party in a state that has been immune to the conservative drift elsewhere in the Midwest.
It’s interesting that this guy doesn’t have Chris Christie out there campaigning like hell for him. Probably too confrontationally conservative for Jersey Fats.