Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rauner Pulls a Romney In Minimum Wage Confession

The Republican governor candidate revealed in a January radio interview that he wanted to wipe out living wages for low-income workers

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While Gov. Pat Quinn subsists on minimum wage in what some view as an election-cycle PR stunt, his Republican rival Bruce Rauner's past statements on the issue continue to haunt the Winnetka venture capitalist.

In a "gotcha!" story Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times posted audio (embedded below) from a January 2014 radio interview in which Rauner 'fessed up to having once proposed to wipe out the minimum wage in blue-state Illinois. Not just slash the state rate. Take it off the map. Void it. Bring it down to zero.

First reaction: [Eyes pop out of sockets. Listens to interview. Eyes fall out of sockets. Resumes writing.]

Second reaction: Could this be the "smoking gun" that derails Rauner's campaign? Recall Mitt Romney's disastrous "47 percent" gaffe, not to mention all those "binders full of women."

Third reaction: Per usual, Mark is on point about Rauner, wealth and whether the candidate truly understands the plight of the non-rich.

Back in December, the GOP governor candidate said he supported bringing Illinois' $8.25 rate down to the $7.25 federal level in order to keep the state competitive. Faced with the possibility of voter backlash, Rauner finessed his stance to restate that, yes, he would support a minimum wage hike but only with business concessions attached.

Responding to the controversy in his radio spot with WJBC-AM's Scott Laughlin, the self-described "free-market conservative" admitted he'd previously stated "on a number of occasions, that we could have a lower minimum wage or no minimum wage as part of increasing Illinois’ competitiveness. I've said that many times. ... It's a mistake for me to focus on lowering the minimum wage or eliminating it because there are better ways to increase Illinois’ competitiveness."

Team Quinn quickly jumped on the headline, stating: "We're not surprised to learn that Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner advocated eliminating the minimum wage just this year. This is his real position, the one he’s trying to hide from voters to get elected."

The Democratic Governors Assocation chimed in, telling Ward Room in a statement: 

"This is the most revealing moment of Bruce Rauner's candidacy. Throughout this campaign he has been a master of disguise - veiling his elitist and exploitative philosophies with flannel shirts and a cheap watch. But Rauner can't hide from his own damning advocacy against real people living from paycheck to paycheck. By supporting the elimination of the minimum wage, Bruce Rauner has distinguished himself as the most dangerous candidate that Illinois' working families have ever seen."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a friend of Rauner, tweeted his disapproval:

 Here's what Rauner's spokesman had to say in response, via the Sun-Times

"In this interview, Bruce acknowledges — as he has repeatedly — that his past statements about the minimum wage were a mistake and he supports a federal minimum wage increase that would raise Illinois’ minimum wage and he supports raising the state minimum wage in conjunction with pro-business reforms. The online story that accompanied the interview also confirms that."

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