Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday staunchly defended his decision to gut his staff and replace them with members of a conservative think tank — declaring he’s still the one calling the shots.
“I don’t care about partisanship, and nobody tells me what my policies are,” Rauner said.
The governor’s remarks came after a reporter in Downstate Auburn asked whether the hiring of members of the Illinois Policy Institute would alienate Rauner from some Democrats who supported him in his first election.
Days after the Illinois General Assembly voted to override the governor’s vetoes of a budget package, Rauner began a round of firings, starting with the unexpected replacement of chief of staff Richard Goldberg with former Illinois Policy Institute head and CEO Kristina Rasmussen. From there, at least 21 members of his administration have either been fired or resigned in protest. Rauner’s new policy chief is also a former policy vice president for the institute. His new communications chief of staff also hails from the organization.
Former staffers have described the staff changes as a major shift in Rauner’s ideology — with at least 12 resigning in protest. But the governor said Friday that “nobody is changing” him.
“I work for the people of Illinois, and if anybody wonders what I’m fighting for, you can look up what I’ve stood for for five years and you can see my 44- point turnaround plan for the state. You can see the legislation that I’ve introduced, and that ain’t changin’.
“Nobody is changing me. We need to fix the system,” Rauner said.
Declaring “change happens” Rauner called criticism of his staff shakeup “political spin baloney.”
“I am always looking for the most talented team I can possibly have, the most talented people who will serve the best interests of all the people of Illinois. Put the best interest of the people first, not other issues, not political insiders,” Rauner said.
The governor said the transitions are “just part of a process.”
The transition, however, has seen its fair share of controversy.
On Monday, Rauner fired his “body man” — a hand-picked assistant — on his first day after homophobic and racially insensitive tweets were discovered. And on Wednesday, one of the governor’s new communications staff hires came under fire for a blog post in which she compared abortions to Nazi eugenics.
The Rauner administration quickly criticized body man Ben Tracy’s tweets while confirming his termination — and said that the abortion blog post was simply personal opinion and not representative of the administration.