Protesters Say No to Rauner: ‘People Make a Difference and People Should Come First’

Stephen Quillen

Many Illinoisans are concerned that gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is trying to 'redistribute wealth upwards,' and will make the state's inequality gap even wider if elected. (Citizen Action Illinois)
As head of the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion (RGA), New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie (R‑N.J.) trav­eled to Chica­go on Fri­day to meet Repub­li­can can­di­date Bruce Rauner for an exclu­sive fundrais­er. The event, host­ed at the Hilton Hotel, was a lucra­tive affair, with tick­ets start­ing at $500 for the gen­er­al recep­tion. “This is amongst the most impor­tant governor’s races in the coun­try,” said Christie, who promised anoth­er $2.5 mil­lion “down pay­ment” in cam­paign dona­tions before the trip was over. In the mean­time, Rauner, whose net worth approach­es $1 bil­lion, has already bro­ken Illi­nois records for per­son­al cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, hav­ing invest­ed $6.05 mil­lion thus far.But as the two GOP politi­cians met with wealthy donors to pro­cure funds, dozens of pro­test­ers gath­ered Fri­day evening out­side the hotel to voice con­cerns over Christie and Rauner’s “mod­er­ate GOP” plat­forms, which they claimed are out of step with main­stream Illi­nois vot­ers. “Both of these politi­cians pose as mod­er­ates, while back­ing extreme posi­tions on both social and eco­nom­ic pock­et­book issues,” says William McNary, co-direc­tor of Cit­i­zen Action Illi­nois. “They may be mod­er­ate in Mis­sis­sip­pi,” he con­tin­ued, “ but they are not mod­er­ate here in Illi­nois.”
The protest was orga­nized by Cit­i­zen Action Illi­nois, a statewide pub­lic inter­est orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to advanc­ing social and eco­nom­ic jus­tice. Cit­i­zens Action was joined by like-mind­ed pro­gres­sive groups, includ­ing SEIU Health­care Illi­nois & Indi­ana, the Chica­go Teach­ers Union, the Chica­go Fed­er­a­tion of Labor, Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers Inter­na­tion­al and Equal­i­ty Illi­nois, along with advo­cates for gun safe­ty, women’s rights, and work­ers’ rights. “This is a his­toric coali­tion to put togeth­er because it merges the groups that real­ly care about social issues with the folks that work on pock­et­book issues,” said Lyn­da DeLaforgue, co-direc­tor of Cit­i­zen Action Illi­nois. “These are issues that vot­ers care about; issues that will affect their deci­sions at the polls. So it is cru­cial that vot­ers know where these can­di­dates stand on these issues.”Among the pro­test­ers was Dulce Ley­va, a full-time stu­dent who works at Aliv­io Med­ical Cen­ter. Ley­va, a sin­gle moth­er who makes just over the min­i­mum wage, com­ment­ed that Bruce Rauner, who raked in an esti­mat­ed $53 mil­lion last year—more than $1 mil­lion per week—is unable to relate with Illi­nois’ work­ing peo­ple. “I live pay­check-to-pay­check,” says Ley­va, “and Bruce Rauner can­not under­stand my sit­u­a­tion. He does not under­stand my strug­gles and he does not under­stand my life.” “Rauner has actu­al­ly shared that he wants to decrease the min­i­mum wage to $7.25,” Ley­va con­tin­ues, refer­ring to com­ments Rauner made on air in Jan­u­ary.  “That would only make our con­di­tions worse.” While Rauner has since back­tracked on his propo­si­tion to decrease the min­i­mum wage, now claim­ing that he would advo­cate a min­i­mum wage hike once cer­tain busi­ness and tax reforms are enact­ed, his pro-cor­po­rate eco­nom­ic vision dis­turbs pro­gres­sive vot­ers.“He’s just try­ing to redis­trib­ute wealth upwards,” says pro­test­er Jason Lee, who works with teach­ers’ unions in Boston. “He wants to low­er tax­es on the rich and mean­while nick­el-and-dime every­one else with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent fees.”Mitchell Locin, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Equal­i­ty Illi­nois, takes issue with Rauner’s record on LGBT rights, cit­ing Rauner’s close ties with anti-LGBT orga­ni­za­tions and his “vehe­ment­ly anti-LGBT run­ning mate [Eve­lyn Sanguen­neti] for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.”“Bruce Rauner says he would have vetoed mar­riage equal­i­ty if he were gov­er­nor in Illi­nois, and Chris Christie actu­al­ly vetoed mar­riage equal­i­ty as gov­er­nor of New Jer­sey,” Locin says. “While  Rauner says he does not have a social agen­da, that is a social agen­da. … It would threat­en to veto mar­riages that have already brought hap­pi­ness for thou­sands and thou­sands of cou­ples in Illi­nois.”Locin points out that Rauner and his wife have donat­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to anti-LGBT can­di­dates this year.Gar­ret Evans, a Chica­go native who sur­vived the 2007 Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre, crit­i­cized Rauner and Christie for their lax posi­tions on gun con­trol. In par­tic­u­lar, Evans, who was shot with an assault rifle, denounced Rauner’s con­tin­ued defense of assault weapons, the type of gun used in the Vir­ginia Tech shoot­ings.“What do we real­ly need [these guns] for?” asks Evans. Rauner has also come under fire from the Chica­go Teach­ers Union for sup­port­ing the expan­sion of char­ter schools and jeop­ar­diz­ing the rights of unions through­out the state.“It’s clear as a bell to us that Bruce Rauner is sim­ply no friend of Chica­go pub­lic schools,” says Patri­cia Boughton, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the CTU. Boughton also claims that Rauner fails to sup­port issues like teacher tenure, which ensure a teacher’s right to due process, and refus­es to back a “fair tax struc­ture” to finance edu­ca­tion.“I would like to see more done in terms of financ­ing chil­dren and their edu­ca­tion in this state,” says Boughton. “I would like to see the chil­dren in the state treat­ed fair­ly. And you will not get that if you sup­port a Christie-Rauner tick­et.”This isn’t the first time Rauner has found him­self mired in con­tro­ver­sy for his deal­ings with edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy. In 2008, Rauner was scru­ti­nized for report­ed­ly using his clout to get his daugh­ter into Wal­ter Pay­ton, a top-ranked pub­lic high school in Chicago’s North Side. After ini­tial­ly being reject­ed admis­sion, Rauner’s daugh­ter was accept­ed to the school once Rauner con­tact­ed Arne Dun­can, then-CEO of Chica­go Pub­lic Schools. More than a year lat­er, Rauner donat­ed $250,000 to the Pay­ton Prep Ini­tia­tive for Edu­ca­tion and $500,000 to the Chica­go Pub­lic Schools Foun­da­tion, the Chica­go Sun-Times reports.To peo­ple like Boughton, this reveals a lev­el of hypocrisy in Rauner’s edu­ca­tion agen­da.“Mr. Rauner sup­ports char­ter schools. He has set up sev­er­al, he has donat­ed to many of them,” says Boughton. “But when it came time for his own child to go to a school, he chose a union­ized pub­lic school.” “What’s good for the goose is good for the gan­der,” adds Lee. “If [char­ter schools] are tru­ly the best solu­tion, make sure your kids are there first.”While pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys reveal that the major­i­ty of Illi­noisans dis­agree with Rauner’s con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions, he has man­aged to secure a con­sid­er­able advan­tage in the polls, with a recent poll by We Ask America/​Capitol Fax putting him up by 12 points over incum­bent Gov­er­nor Pat Quinn (D‑Ill). Still, many pro­gres­sive activists are con­fi­dent that they can chal­lenge Rauner’s bid come elec­tion time, even if Rauner out­spends his com­peti­tors.“There have cer­tain­ly been self-fun­ders in the past that have spent a lot of mon­ey and failed,” says DeLaforgue, “So we’re not gonna get caught up in the dol­lar sign. As we say, Illi­nois is not for sale.”  “For those of us who care about eco­nom­ic and social jus­tice,” she con­tin­ues, “it is impor­tant that we get the mes­sage out to our base, espe­cial­ly ‘infre­quent’ vot­ers who are less like­ly to come out for a midterm elec­tion. That’ll be crit­i­cal for this elec­tion.”Katie Jor­dan is a retired mem­ber of Work­ers Unit­ed who works on senior issues across the coun­try. “We need to send him back to the big cor­po­ra­tions and let him stay there,” she says. “Peo­ple make a dif­fer­ence and peo­ple should come first. Illi­nois needs a gov­er­nor that takes seri­ous­ly the job of help­ing Illinois’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.”
Stephen Quillenis a Sum­mer 2014 intern at In These Times.
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