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Rauner, long at odds with unions, goes parading on Labor Day

Gov. Bruce Rauner greets well-wishers during Monday's Labor Day parade in Naperville. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Even though union leaders have branded him the anti-organized labor governor, Bruce Rauner confidently stepped onto the streets of downtown Naperville Monday for the huge suburb’s Labor Day parade.

For the most part, the Republican governor was well-received as he jogged along the parade route kicking off what traditionally has been the start of the fall campaign season, which could be among the most expensive in Illinois history.

The governor has promised to go “toe-to-toe” to oust Democrats during the November elections. Democrats — led by Rauner’s nemesis, Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan — have supermajorities in both the House and Senate, stifling the governor in his bid to enact his so-called turnaround agenda.

Rauner so far has contributed about $10 million from his campaign fund to help the Republican cause in November.

Asked by reporters before the parade about his battles with Democrats and Democratic-leaning labor leaders, Rauner turned the issue to the economy.

“What I’m all about is growing the Illinois economy, making sure we’re very competitive, that we’ve got lots of jobs and that we’ve got higher family incomes,” Rauner told reporters. “We do that through strong economic growth, and that’s everything we’re pushing for.”

Rauner took to the streets of Naperville with his wife, first lady Diana Rauner.

“Thanks for trying to clean up the mess,” called out Dan Krush, 56, of Naperville, as Rauner passed.

“You guys are doing a great job. Stay strong. Someone has to save us from the Madigan madness,” said Mary Derwinski, also of Naperville.

And so it went for most of the parade route. There was the occasional dissenting voice, though.

“Save our pension, Bruce!” shouted Jim Geovanes, 42, a teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School, who said he’s not a Rauner fan and thinks teachers are being overlooked in the Springfield budget squabbles.

“I have no political lines,” Geovanes said. “I just want what’s due to us and owed to us, and want the state to fund that pension to make sure teachers get what they deserve.”