April 25, 2018


Like that enduring real estate adage about “location, location, location,” Governor Bruce Rauner’s (R) 2018 re-election prospects are “dismal, dismal, dismal.”

Rauner’s only good news from the March 20 primary was that 361,285 Illinoisans voted for him, and another 5,971,342 registered voters did not vote against him because they did not vote at all.  The bad news is that 341,825 Republicans voted against him and for Jeanne Ives in the Republican primary, and that 1,324,627 voters picked one of the 6 Democrats in their primary, and will presumably vote for their nominee, J.B. Pritzker, on Nov. 6. Pritzker got 597,756 votes.

That makes the score: Rauner 361,285, Not-Rauner 1,666,373, and Not-Yet-Not Rauner 5,971,343. That’s a base of about 5 percent. Those are dismal numbers. To win, Rauner needs to get 1.5 million Not-Yets to turn out and get 55-60 percent, plus 100 percent of the anti-Rauner Ives voters. The total Republican turnout was 703,110, the Democrats’ 1,324,627. Those are dismal numbers. Rauner spent $63 million over 15 months, while Ives spent $4.3 million over 4 months. Rauner beat her by a margin of 19,460 votes. Those are dismal numbers.

In his 2013-14 campaign, Rauner blanketed TV and the media with repetitive ads promising to “Shake Up Springfield.” Webster’s dictionary defines “shake-up” as “a reorganization of a drastic or extensive nature, as in policy or personnel.” Rauner, by that definition, did not succeed. The tax-and-spend culture of Springfield is unchanged. All Rauner did was thwart Speaker Mike Madigan and the legislative Democrats from any new and pernicious tax-hiking schemes, and the re-imposition of an income tax hike for three years. Yet pension, budgetary, structural debt and vendor non-payment situations remain unresolved, as when Rauner took office. Pension debt is $111 billion, state debt $37.5 billion, and vendor debt $16.5 billion.

The Pritzker campaign is already rolling out its message: Rauner is a “failure,” It is “time to work together” with legislative Democrats, to “get Illinois moving again.” Those are euphemisms spending more money, raising more taxes, and making sure that everybody who gets (or used to get) a state stipend or subsidy or is a social service provider will stay on (or be back on) the gravy train. “The “vulnerable” shall inherit Illinois. Like Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, J.B. will be taxing everything that moves, breathes or crawls. And that will be just fine for Madigan, as he will deliver the votes but J.B. will take the heat.

Illinois, since 1892, has had 21 elected governors, of which 10 were re-elected, 10 were one-termers, and Rauner’s fate is pending. (Pat Quinn is considered as “re-elected,” as he became governor in 2009 after Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment, won election in 2010, but lost his bid for re-election in 2014 to Rauner.) The one-termers lost because of poor political judgment, major mistakes, or were caught in a political “wave” which favored the opposition party.

Rauner cannot plausibly be accused of poor judgment, as he has done as promised, but a Democratic “wave” is building for 2028, which Rauner cannot likely overcome.  Here’s a look at prior one-termers.

1892-1896: For 36 years, from 1856 to 1892, Illinois had a succession of Republican governors. Then Democrat John Peter Altgeld, deemed Illinois’ “first liberal governor,” got elected. He enacted new labor laws and spent money on education, although he did oppose compulsory education. His downfall occurred in 1893 when he pardoned 3 unhanged anarchists convicted of the Haymarket Square bombing; he also opposed use of federal troops to quell the American Railway Union’s strike. He won 425,558-402,686 over incumbent Joseph Fifer (R) in 1892, but lost 587,637-474,256 to John Tanner (R) in 1896, also a Republican “wave” year.

1912-16: Democrat Edward Dunne is the first and only Chicago mayor to be elected governor, largely because of a fluke. The Republicans had split into conservative and “Bull Moose” progressive factions, and each ran a candidate for president and governor. Woodrow Wilson won the White House, and Dunne won with 38.1 percent, topping incumbent Charles Deneen (R) and Progressive Frank Funk 443,120-318,469-303,401. As governor, Dunne failed to deliver on his promise of municipal ownership of street railway and utility companies. In 1916, Republicans were united, and Frank Lowden (R) beat him 696,535-556,654, a margin of 139,881 votes, with Dunne getting 42.1 percent.

1916-20: Lowden is known as a “reformer,” having reorganized state government with the passage of the Civil Administrative Code of 1917. He married the daughter of train sleeping car millionaire George Pullman, and was both a lawyer and country squire. His goal was to be president, and he had the money to do it. When Teddy Roosevelt, the presumptive 1920 nominee, died in 1919, the path was open. But Lowden and General Leonard Wood, claiming the Roosevelt mantle, deadlocked the convention, and neither would accept a Lowden-Wood or Wood-Lowden ticket, so Warren Harding was the “smoke-filled-room” compromise. Lowden did not seek a second term.

1928-32: The epitome of a stodgy time-server and caretaker, Louis Emmerson was 65 when elected, having served 12 undistinguished years as Secretary of State. With Herbert Hoover atop the ticket, a Republican wave swept all, and Emmerson won 1,709,818-1,284,897, a whopping 424,921-vote plurality. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, Emmerson replicated Hoover: Instead of spending more and incurring debt, thereby creating capital and jobs, Emmerson cut the budget, worsening the situation. He wisely chose to retire in 1932.

1968-72: The state’s chief revenue source was the retail sales tax, and by 1968 it was obvious that it wasn’t enough anymore. Dick Ogilvie (R), the Cook County board president, beat Sam Shapiro (D) 2,307,295-2,179,501, a margin of 137,794 votes. On taking office, he determined, at great political risk, that only a state income tax could provide the necessary revenue for schools and welfare. The Republican legislature imposed a 4-percent individual and corporate income tax, and those majorities were wiped-out in 1970. In 1972, Ogilvie expected to face Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon (D), who supported the tax. But Dan Walker, posing as an anti-tax populist, walked the state, and upset Simon 735,193-694,900 in the Democratic primary. The Ogilvie-Walker race became a referendum on the governor – and taxes. While Richard Nixon (R) won Illinois 2,788,179-1,553,872, a margin of 874,707 votes, and U.S. Senator Chuck Percy (R) won 2,867,078-1,572,507, a margin of 1,146,047 votes, Ogilvie lost to Walker 2,371,303-2,293,809, a margin of 77,494 votes. Ogilvie ran 500-600,000 votes behind his fellow Republicans.

1972-76: Walker was an aggressive, confrontational, adversarial, non-compromising alpha male who wanted to be president in 1976, and used Mayor Richard J. Daley as his nemesis. Whatever Daley wanted, Walker was against. Rather than showing “courage” and “independence,” he instead just showed ineptitude. After months of wrangling, the RTA was finally created. In 1976, Daley got his revenge: Secretary of State Mike Howlett (D) beat Walker 811,721-696,380, a margin of 115,341 votes. In the primary, Walker won Downstate by 113,434 votes, but lost Chicago and Cook County by 228,775 votes. Howlett then lost to Jim Thompson (R) by 1,390,137 votes.

1998-2002: George Ryan didn’t invent pay-to-play, but it takes money to win elections and Ryan wasn’t a rich self-funder like Rauner or Pritzker. In fact, Ryan was a pharmacist who held office continuously from 1966: county commissioner, state representative, speaker, lieutenant governor, and Secretary of State (SOS). To raise money to run for governor, Ryan pressured employees to sell fundraiser tickets, and the employees then pressured their customers (meaning drivers) to buy them; it also meant unqualified drivers paid bribes to get licenses, and kickbacks were demanded on contracts. The feds’ Operation Safe Road began in the early 1990s. Ryan was elected in 1998, beating Glenn Poshard (D) 1,714,094-1,594,191, running as the more liberal candidate, supporting gay rights and abortion rights. As governor, Ryan pleased unions and  Madigan with his $6.3 billion Illinois First building plan for roads and schools, and liberals with his death penalty moratorium.

During Ryan’s gubernatorial term the feds convicted 76 former SOS employees of crimes. Ryan’s career was over. They nailed his chief-of-staff in 2003, and later indicted and convicted Ryan of 22 counts of racketeering, bribery, extortion and tax fraud. Ryan served 78 months in prison.

So how does Rauner fit in? He has tried to be fiscally conservative, anti-tax, anti-union, pro-business, and socially liberal – and has reaped no rewards and little gratitude. Rauner cut the budget by $4.1 billion, vetoed the 2016 budget (leaving the state with no budget until 2018), vetoed the state income tax hike (3.75 to 4.95 percent for individuals and 5.25 to 7 percent for corporations), pushed a “Turnaround Agenda” which included a property tax freeze, and banned “fair share” compulsory union dues deductions for state employees, meaning they don’t have to pay if they don’t want to. He also supported term limits, right-to-work, and a sales tax on legal, financial, accounting and computer services.

Rauner is pro-choice, and infuriated pro-life conservatives by signing a law increasing Medicaid’s range of funding to include abortion services. That prompted Ives’s candidacy, and she carried 35 of 102 counties, including the collar counties of McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will. Like Walker, voters have become fatigued by Rauner. Hope has become No Hope. He can’t win.

E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com