PHILADELPHIA — After a quiet week of demurring about his interest in running for governor, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin vigorously ripped into Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday for playing Chicago against downstate in his legislative battles.
“We cannot allow any politician to divide this state,” Durbin told Illinois delegates to the Democratic National Convention, who took it as a sign the veteran senator may be warming to the task of challenging the Republican governor.
Later, Durbin told reporters: “Any governor of Illinois who tries to divide this state, southern Illinois versus Chicago, one section against the other, does a disservice to the people he represents. We are one state.
“Education is a challenge in every part of our state, and we need leaders who will bring this state together and work for the entire state,” he said.
Durbin was referring to Rauner’s aggressive efforts during the recent legislative session to block additional funding for Chicago Public Schools by attacking downstate Democrats who supported what he called a “Chicago bailout.”
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Asked by reporters in Chicago about Durbin’s remarks, Rauner laughed them off before citing a litany of state problems.
“Change is hard. Change is critically important. There’ll be critics along the way,” Rauner said.
Durbin said he’s “angry” about what Rauner has done to Illinois while trying to force legislators to accept his Turnaround Agenda.
“Regardless of whether I ever run for another office any time in my life, I am outraged by what I see in our state,” he said.
“I go down to southern Illinois and have Republican mayors tell me the devastating impact of this budget impasse on the local economy, losing jobs, people are losing the value of their homes. It is unacceptable,” Durbin said.
Durbin said Rauner is hurting “innocent people” with his policies.