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KADNER: Too busy spurning Rauner, GOP fails to make Dems pay for taxes

Gov. Bruce Rauner at the annual Columbus Day Parade on State Street in Downtown Chicago in 2016. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

True to their ideology, conservatives in Illinois reject government handouts.

Democrats in this state raised the income tax, creating a firestorm of taxpayer unrest.

Property tax rates in Chicago have been increased to support public education, generating more discontent.

And if this wasn’t enough to create a citizen revolt, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle came up with a tax on soda pop, which is now likely to be repealed.


To make sure every potential voter got the message, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in with television commercials claiming the tax was actually intended to reduce the number of obese children in Chicago, not line the pockets of politicians, their friends and government employees.

Hey, when Chicagoans need reassurance, they love to hear from New Yorkers.

Yes, Democrats have seemingly gift-wrapped this package of political ammunition and handed it to Republicans, but the conservatives don’t know what to do with it.

For example, last weekend, southwest suburban Republicans decided they didn’t want Gov. Bruce Rauner at their annual family picnic.

Rauner had just signed legislation expanding publicly funded abortions in Illinois.

“I personally am pro-choice,” Rauner said. “I always have been. And I made no qualms about that when I was elected governor. And I have not and will never change my views. I personally believe that a woman should have, must have, the right to decide what goes on in her own body.”

Sean Morrison, a Cook County board member and Palos Township Republican committeeman, said conservative organizations were planning demonstrations if Rauner showed up at the suburban picnic, and he didn’t want that spoiling a day designed for parents and their children.

Cook County Commissioners Sean Morrison (left) and Richard Boykin chat before the executive budget for fiscal year 2018 is presented at a special meeting Thursday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When I pressed him about his thoughts on Rauner’s signing of House Bill 40, Morrison emphasized that he grew up on Chicago’s South Side, is a Catholic and a Republican, implying that he was anti-abortion and objected to Rauner’s decision.

It’s important to note that Morrison and Orland Township Republican Committeeman Elizabeth Gorman led the movement to have the Cook County Republican Party endorse Rauner for governor in the 2014 primary. It was the first time in decades the party had endorsed in the primary.

In addition, Morrison wrote an opinion piece for the conservative Illinois Review in 2014, denouncing the “fragging” of Bruce Rauner by fellow Republicans.

“In the United States military, fragging refers to the disgraceful act of soldiers murdering members of their own military, particularly their leaders,” Morrison wrote.

“Well, we currently are witnessing a metaphoric ‘Political Fragging,’ a character assassination  if you will, but make no mistake about it; Bruce Rauner is being intentionally fragged by members of his own party.”

Morrison is now chairman of the Cook County Republican Party.

When I suggested he “disinvited” Rauner to the southwest suburban Republican picnic, he at first objected to that interpretation, suggesting it was a mutual decision.

Rauner has been a featured speaker at several previous southwest suburban picnics, and his attendance at this one had been touted as a main attraction.

In the past, Morrison emphasized to me that he is a fiscal conservative, not a social conservative. He suggested it was important for Republicans in Cook County to avoid divisive social issues such as abortion, welfare and immigration if they wanted to be successful.

The billionaire governor is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican Party campaign coffers and ran the sort of campaign in 2014 that Morrison embraced. Rauner has since become the chief source of funding for Republicans throughout the state.

“We welcome his support,” Morrison said, noting that he would likely back the governor for re-election, while refusing to endorse him just yet.

If Republicans have a difficult time uniting behind Rauner, I can’t see how they will run effective campaigns for countywide office or ever mount a serious challenge to Michael Madigan’s control of the Illinois House.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com 

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