Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is discovering what it means to be a front runner: you have a target on your back.
On Sunday, State Senator Bill Brady, one of Rauner’s rivals in the March Republican primary, held a press conference calling for answers about the wealthy venture capitalist’s connections with convicted serial con man Stuart Levine.
Brady questioned whether political connections helped Rauner’s old firm, GTCR, gain a deal with the Teachers Retirement System, where Levine was a trustee. After initially rejecting GTCR to help run a $50 million investment, Levine and the board reversed course after a personal appearance by Rauner.
In 2012, Levine, a former Republican fundraiser with close ties to former Gov. Rod Balgojevich, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for corruption.
Brady’s questions come in the wake of a difficult week for the Rauner campaign, after the candidate was engulfed in a media firestorm after comments he made suggesting he supported rolling back the state’s minimum wage a dollar.
While much of the most recent polling shows the race for Illinois governor remains a toss-up between Democrat Pat Quinn and any of his four Republican challengers, Rauner has increasingly looked like the front runner for the Republican’s due to his deep pockets and recent TV ad blitz.
During the Sunday press conference, however, Brady suggested Rauner’s minimum wage comments showed he wasn’t the right choice for the top of the Republican Party ticket in 2014.
“One of the things I’ve learned as a candidate for governor, when you lead the party’s ticket, your responsibility is not only to work toward getting yourself elected, but to carry the whole ticket. When you have things happen like happened this last week on minimum wage, it hurts the whole ticket. It hurts the whole party,” Brady said.
At an appearance Sunday at a South Side church, State Senator Kirk Dillard also hoped to capitalize on the minimum wage controversy, telling an audience:
"You never can get rid of the minimum wage, I voted to increase it in the past, which shows I don't believe you ought to get rid of it, you've got to have it," Dillard said.
Over the weekend, the campaign of state treasurer Dan Rutherford released a statement saying he “does not support lowering the state's minimum wage, nor does he support increasing it at this time.”
The Rauner campaign also continues to be dogged by stories around questions over whether he used clout and a $250,000 donation to help his daughter get into Walter Payton College Prep, one of Chicago’s elite high schools.
During his campaign, Rauner has been a staunch advocate for privatized charter schools, including in his popular TV ads.