Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner told a crowd of millennials on Saturday that Illinois is the “worst run” state in the country.
He said he has friends who left Illinois, “and that’s wrong.”
Then the signs went up.
Six in the crowd at the NextGen Illinois Convention at the UIC Forum quietly rose their hands with each holding a poster that collectively read “Rauner’s policies are bad for IL.”
There were cheers, and Rauner paused for about 10 seconds before telling the crowd of hundreds they have a chance of turning the state around.
“You’ve got corrupt politicians who are doing things for their own benefit, not for yours,” Rauner said.
Rauner told the crowd he’d focus on four issues should he win the seat: getting the economy moving, bringing “wasteful” spending under control, making education a top priority, and “getting corruption out of Springfield.”
Rauner thanked the crowd for being involved in the democratic process and called them “the key” to the state’s future.
He told them their generation is big trouble.
“You guys, your generation, young voters are going to suffer the most, from the failures in Springfield. You’re going to get stuck with high taxes. You’re going to get massive deficits. You’re going to get stuck with the deep funding of deteriorated schools,” Rauner said.
The signs went up once again as Rauner spoke about creating more job opportunities.
Chanel West, 22, of Englewood, was one of six people who raised the Rauner signs.
She wore a pin, facetiously, that read “I love capitalism.” The pins were being handed out by a student organization called Turning Point USA, which supports fiscal responsibility, limited government and capitalism.
West said she was one of many who booed Rauner’s statement that he’s helped to fund charter schools.“I think we should fix our system that we have now, and look for other options after that will all fit,” West said.
She questioned why schools on the South and West sides are getting funds cut, and she railed against those who make money off education.
“There’s no reason why education is a business. It’s not a business. Children are not a profitable vessel. You can’t put a tax number or any number on education spending,” West said.
Appearing about two hours later, Gov. Pat Quinn reminded the crowd he signed the marriage equality bill on the same stage, and said he hopes to build a majority to raise the minimum wage in the state.
“We’re going to use the process of democracy to do the same thing we did a year ago with marriage equality. We’re going to build a majority,” Quinn said. “We have a chance to vote on an issue that really makes a difference in the lives, the economic lives of thousands of people that are in our own state, people who are the heart and soul of our economy.”
Quinn also touted the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act, and said he believes the state must invest in education, including early education.
Quinn went after a topic near and dear to many in the crowd: student debt and state scholarship programs.
“I have to live to be 102 to pay off my kids’ student loans,” Quinn joked.
He said he’s proposing to double the amount of money for the Monetary Award Program, or MAP, which has helped 140,000 Illinois students receive scholarships of $5.000.
The NextGen convention rounded up about 1,500 young adults, ages 14-35, to come up with a policy agenda to present to state lawmakers. The convention came after 60 caucuses at bars, parks and community centers for young adults to get to talk about big picture problems.
Both gubernatorial candidates agreed on stage to meet with a group of young adults to present those issues post-election.