Governor Pat Quinn is locked in a contentious election battle with wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner for control of the state’s future.
Quinn, a former gadfly and lieutenant governor who ascended to the top spot in Illinois politics when Rod Blagojevich was ousted and jailed, barely won his first real gubernatorial election in 2010 when he squared off with conservative Bill Brady. Since then, Quinn has raised taxes on all Illinoisans, tangled with legislators over the Illinois pension system, and stepped into a potential corruption issue with a trouble anti-violence program.
Rauner, a wealthy and connected business leader but political novice, proved to be a force in the Republican primaries when he bested more polished candidates like Dan Rutherford and Kirk Dillard to win the GOP nomination. He’s used his considerable wealth – a net worth estimated close to $1 Billion -- to bolster his campaign and to fund parts of the Illinois GOP.
The Winnetka businessman, and former principal of the venture capital firm GTCR, began the race looking like a folksy, down-to-earth businessman who would eschew social issues and focus on fiscal discipline. But as questions about his past venture capital dealings, including accusations that his company stripped resources from a nursing home, bullied business associates with threats, and bankrupted more than a dozen businesses, Rauner’s stock tumbled.
About a month out, the race between Quinn and Rauner is something of a statistical dead-heat (with a slight edge to Quinn, according to the most recent polling). Rauner is pushing hard for African-American votes from the populous center of Chicago, where he polls poorly. Quinn I hoping to rally his base by harping on populist issues like minimum wage and drafting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for fund raisers.
The race is too close to call and should come down to election night turnout. But before Nov. 4 arrives, voters could get more information on Quinn’s anti-violence program or Rauner’s business dealings that could change the outcome late in the game.