JOLIET – Joliet was the center of attention Friday for the Republican candidate for governor.
Bruce Rauner, as well as running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti, was in town to talk to members of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry during a luncheon at the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate. He maintained optimism during his speech to chamber members, noting his lead in the polls, but also said polls mean nothing if people don’t vote in the election.
Rauner spoke to the crowd of business leaders about state government’s “hostility to businesses,” promising to recruit companies to Illinois, rather than pushing them out with “bad policies” and “over-regulation.”
“I’m here to go to work for you,” Rauner said.
Rauner received several rounds of applause from the crowd when he spoke of his call for legislative term limits and his refusal to take a salary and pension as governor. He said he would fight for tax rate reductions, workers compensation reform and other business-friendly initiatives.
Chamber President and CEO Russ Slinkard said he was pleased the Joliet business community had a chance to meet the candidate ahead of the November election.
But he said he would have liked some details on how Rauner would make his plans a reality.
“We heard basically the same thing we’ve been hearing from him in television interviews and radio interviews ... that the state is driving business away and that we’ve got to change that,” Slinkard said. “There was nothing specific on what his plan would be. It’s what we expected. That’s usually what you get.”
Small crowd protests
About a dozen protesters stationed themselves Friday outside the Jacob Henry Mansion, where they handed out fliers denouncing Rauner’s business record and accused the candidate of killing jobs and being involved with companies that shipped jobs overseas.
They could be heard chanting things like “Rauner used NAFTA, workers got the shaft-a!” – alluding to his investment firm’s ties to companies that shipped jobs overseas to spin a profit. Others were holding signs reading “Bankrupt Bruce” and “Rauner wiped out USA jobs.”
“He says he’ll run this state like a business. We don’t want him running our state like one of his businesses,” said Neal Waltmire, communications director for the union-backed Illinois Freedom PAC, which organized the event.
Term limits setback
Rauner arrived in Joliet about the same time a Cook County judge ruled that his campaign-centered ballot initiative calling for legislative term limits was unconstitutional.
Following his speech, Rauner held a brief press conference, where he spoke to media of his plans to fight the judge’s ruling that prevents his term-limit initiative from appearing on the November ballot.
Rauner has centered much of his campaign message around his push for legislative term limits.
“We want the will of the people to move forward and we’re going to pursue an appeal. We’ll appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. We think that term limits are a very important initiative,” Rauner said. “We believe the voters deserve a choice about term limits.”
Reporters also questioned him about his daughter’s acceptance into an elite Chicago school despite her grades not being up to par.
The inspector general for the Chicago Public Schools said Thursday that Rauner’s daughter was not qualified to be admitted into the school and wasn’t on the principal’s discretion list, as Rauner has stated on several times. Rauner maintained Friday his daughter was qualified, calling the issue a “distraction” created by his opponent, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Joliet chamber officials are in talks with Quinn’s office to invite the Democrat incumbent to a luncheon ahead of the November election.