Rauner’s return: Former Republican governor visits state Capitol to unveil official portrait — but won’t talk politics

Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner deflected reporters’ questions about Democrats’ continued placement of blame on him or a two-year budget impasse when he was governor. He also didn’t mention his now-indicted nemesis, former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

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Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, now a Florida resident, unveils his official portrait before it is hung on the wall of the Illinois State Capitol on Monday. Above Rauner is the portrait of his predecessor, Democrat Pat Quinn, and at right is his former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti. 

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, now a Florida resident, unveils his official portrait before it is hung on the wall of the Illinois State Capitol on Monday. Above Rauner is the portrait of his predecessor, Democrat Pat Quinn, and at right is his former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti.

Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s portrait has joined the “Hall of Governors” in the Illinois Capitol.

The Winnetka Republican-turned-Florida resident on Monday unveiled the portrait painted by Chicago artist Richard Halstead and privately funded by Rauner. The 42nd governor of Illinois downplayed the artwork as “not that big a deal” and declined to stray far from a message of “thanks” to the people of Illinois.

“The real reason that we wanted to do this, the real reason why [wife] Diana and I wanted to come and be with you is to say thank you,” Rauner said. “To say thank you to each and every one of you here today, to say thank you to every citizen, every voter, every child, every newcomer, every immigrant to the state of Illinois.”

Rauner, a one-term governor elected in 2014, stayed on message even while taking questions from reporters. Those mostly focused on Democrats’ continued placement of blame on Rauner for a two-year budget impasse between him and Democrats in the General Assembly.

Rauner deflected those questions. He also didn’t mention former House Speaker Michael Madigan — his nemesis and frequent political punching bag — or the Southwest Side Democrat’s indictment on corruption charges.

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Former Gov. Bruce Rauner unveils his official portrait before it is hung on the wall of the Illinois State Capitol. Rauner, a Republican, was governor from 2015 until 2019.

Jerry Nowicki/ Capitol News Illinois

“Today, I really don’t want to talk politics and, you know, the usual stuff,” Rauner said. “The one thing I will say, I am very proud of what we did while we were running the state, and I’m very proud of what we tried to do.”

The one current legislative matter that Rauner did address was Illinois’ Invest in Kids tax credit, a $75 million program he signed into law as part of an education reform effort in 2017 that gives tax credits to people who donate to private school scholarship funds.

It wasn’t funded for the upcoming budget year and is scheduled to be repealed on Jan. 1, 2025, but Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who beat Rauner in 2018, has said it could still be extended and funded in the fall veto session.

“It’s under threat today,” Rauner said. “I hope the Legislature will act to protect that program.”

Rauner’s portrait depicts him in front of an empty blue background with his ubiquitous Illinois-shaped lapel pin. Directly below is the portrait of the Democrat Rauner beat, former Gov. Pat Quinn, whose painting reportedly included 44 “found items” intended to sum up Quinn’s legacy, ranging from a picture of him signing a bill to a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.

 Former Gov. Bruce Rauner unveils his official portrait on Monday.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner unveils his official portrait on Monday.

Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News Illinois

“I don’t think any portrait summarizes anybody’s legacy very well,” Rauner said when asked of his own simple background choice.

The portrait joins that of all former governors in the Capitol except for impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In 2010, the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting public funds from being used for the Northwest Side Democrat’s portrait.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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