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Rauner asks Republicans to ‘chip in’ to fight Pritzker’s ‘inherited’ wealth

Gov. Bruce Rauner wraps up the Governor's Day program with Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, left, and candidate for attorney general, Erika Harold, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner wraps up the Governor's Day program with Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, left, and candidate for attorney general, Erika Harold, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

SPRINGFIELD — Two years ago as he prepared for Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vowed to outspend Democrats to beat the “machine.”

On Wednesday, Rauner asked for some help — both financially and in ground game support — to help keep the governor’s office in Republican hands. It was a new message for the governor, who’s facing a seemingly unlimited campaign war chest — the coffers of billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

Rauner’s ask comes at a difficult time. It’s just five months after a brutal primary exposed the divisions within the state’s Republican Party, including those involving levels of support for President Donald Trump.

But on Wednesday, Rauner focused on the Democrats.

“They’re going to outspend us,” Rauner said at the annual Republican breakfast before the political pep rally at the fair. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me be clear. They’ll outspend us three-to-one. But you know what? You can only put so much lipstick on a barrow.”

A barrow is a castrated pig.

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters at the Governor's Day event Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters at the Governor’s Day event Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

“And you know what? Once you’re spending that much for saturation, you know what? The rest of it’s wasted.”

Pritzker’s self-funding has helped the Democrat stay on the airwaves for months. Pritzker spent $70 million on the March primary and has more than $100 million in his campaign fund, with apparently no end in sight. Rauner has $77 million on hand. And last week, the Republican governor contributed $4 million to House Republicans to help them pick up seats in November. He also contributed $1 million to Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold.

Rauner acknowledged he’s “given a lot.” But asked those at the Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee & County Chairmen’s Association Meeting to “chip in whatever” they could.

“I need you guys. I need you to tell your friends and neighbors to help out. Everybody needs to chip in whatever we can,” Rauner said.

At the Illinois State Fair, Rauner rode in on his Harley Davidson, just as he’s done at the last three fairs —greeted by chants from many of his volunteers and supporters. He urged a chant of “Cut the taxes. Put in term limits.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner greets supporters before he takes the stage at Governor's Day Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner greets supporters before he takes the stage at Governor’s Day Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Illinois Republican Party Co-Chairman Tim Schneider got the rally crowd to shout “Fire Madigan,” while Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin spoke of “making Madigan retire.”

“Mike Madigan’s retirement date will be November of 2018 when we as a united Republican Party finally end his reign of overspending and overpromising,” Durkin said.

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But the governor’s speech at the fair focused largely on trying to bolster support for candidates such as Harold, and for Republican legislative candidates. Rauner vowed Republicans will pick up nine seats “and knock Mike Madigan out” as speaker.

Rauner spoke of the “darkness of Madigan and Pritzker,” saying “everything is on the line.”

“We’re not going to fall backwards. We cannot let Madigan and Pritzker get total control of this state,” Rauner said. “That’s going to be more taxes, more corruption, more job losses and a devastating future for our children and our grandchildren in the state of Illinois. We can’t let that happen.”

The governor earlier accused Pritzker of using his fortune to buy a political office.

“We’ll never outspend these corrupt guys. Pritzker inherited billions. I didn’t inherit anything. He inherited billions and he’s using his money that he inherited to buy political office,” Rauner said in his breakfast speech. “We can’t let that happen.”

Rauner vowed to “try to put together the biggest ground game ever in Illinois.”

“We did it four years ago,” Rauner said, adding his campaign knocked on more doors and made more phone calls.

“Let’s take it to ’em,” Rauner said.

In 2016, at that year’s breakfast, Rauner vowed to go “toe-to-toe” with Democrats to oust the “political machine” crippling the state.

“The machine has pounded with their power in the past. They have outspent us two, three, four-to-one. Not this time. Not this time. We’re going toe-to-toe — and, in fact, we’re going to do better than them,” Rauner said of his push, then, to help Republicans gain seats to reshape the state’s Republican party.

Schneider described the governor’s election as a battle of right versus wrong.

“If this election was about character, there wouldn’t be a race for governor at all,” Schneider said.

And he acknowledged there’s a split among Republicans in the state.

“We have two Illinois,” Schneider told reporters. “We have Downstate Illinois that really embraces Donald Trump and the northern half of the state, they are less confident in his abilities and don’t like his rhetoric. And I think that we have to deal with that.”

Still, Schneider said voters will realize that “this race is about Michael Madigan once again controlling this state, the status quo, business as usual.”

And showing the party’s need to include more conservative Republicans — the March primary as evidence — co-chairman Mark Shaw sought to offer an olive branch to Trump supporters.

“We can make America great again, as well all Illinois,” Shaw said.