A complicated friendship is once again on the rocks.
The increasingly stormy relationship between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel suffered another jolt Thursday as the governor unleashed on his former buddy in a Downstate radio interview.
“He’s corrupt. He’s part of the problem in Chicago. Failure on jobs. Failure on taxes,” Rauner said. “He’s got to go.”
A mayoral spokesman dismissed the broadside as “high praise from the man named the worst governor in America.”
The two were once friends, sharing business deals, vacations and pricey bottles of wine. Politics has strained the relationship, although it has had its ups and downs.
Just weeks ago, the Republican governor and Democratic mayor shared a stage in the South Loop, trading congratulations for a corporate partnership for a major satellite campus of the University of Illinois.
Emanuel thanked Rauner for sticking with the idea for the campus, and the governor asked for a round of applause for Emanuel’s “leadership.”
Flash forward to Thursday.
In a Downstate radio interview on WJPF, Rauner was asked about former Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to get mayoral term limits, and the governor launched into an assault on Emanuel, lumping him in with Rauner’s other two favorite foils, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Democratic gubernatorial rival J.B. Pritzker.
“Pritzker, Madigan, Emanuel, those guys got to go,” Rauner said.
Rauner said term limits “gets guys out of office who need to go but who have too much power concentrated.”
“Emanuel’s getting $20 million from his special interest groups. He’s corrupt. He’s part of the problem in Chicago. Failure on jobs. Failure on taxes,” Rauner said. “He’s got to go. And Madigan. Madigan’s the worst. He’s been there 35 years. He’s become a millionaire from high property taxes in his tax appeal law firm.”
And speaking to reporters later Thursday, the governor said Emanuel and leaders in Chicago are “fundamentally failing, failing horribly,” when it comes to stemming violence.
Emanuel’s communications director Adam Collins called the Rauner broadside “high praise from the man named the worst governor in America.”
That’s a reference to the conservative National Review — which offered a scathing critique of Rauner last year, dubbing him “the worst Republican governor in America.”
The rapid-fire and harshly-worded City Hall response left no doubt that Emanuel and Rauner, once longtime friends who made millions together, are allies no more.
“Bruce Rauner’s Downstate election strategy is centered solely on denigrating Chicago, in large part because he doesn’t have any accomplishments worth mentioning,” Collins wrote in an email.
“He said Chicago’s children attend schools that are crumbling prisons. He called Chicago’s teachers ‘virtually illiterate.’ And he derided a peaceful anti-violence march led by Chicago ministers as `chaos.’ He’s wrapping up a term in which he achieved nothing other than gridlock. I guess desperate times call for desperate rhetoric.”
In the radio interview, Rauner was also asked about rumors he’s already squashed about whether he’d call the National Guard to help stem Chicago’s gun violence problem.
“I will not put them in harm’s way. If there was a riot, I’d call them in to put down a riot,” Rauner said.
The governor said, “Chicago leaders have a duty to protect the citizens of Chicago.”
“They’ve been a failure on jobs. The mayor, the leaders of Chicago have failed on jobs. They failed on taxes. They failed on corruption,” Rauner said.
The friendship between Rauner and Emanuel dates to their days in the private sector. They worked on a lucrative business deal before either had run for office. And they vacationed together with their wives.
In 2010, a Montana publication ran a photo of the two men carrying bottles of wine during a trip to a ranch Rauner owns in Montana. The wine was from Napa Valley Reserve, an invitation-only, exclusive wine club Rauner was a member of that cost upward of $100,000 to join.
But serving in elected office has strained the friendship, with public squabbles over the state budget impasse, city pensions and education funding.
Two years ago, Emanuel issued some terse advice to Rauner: “Stop name-calling and just do your job.” The governor responded by promising to send dead fish to Emanuel — a dig to Emanuel’s notorious episode of years ago mailing a dead fish to a pollster whom he believed had screwed up, itself a veiled nod to a scene from “The Godfather.”