The Illinois Retail Merchants Association says it won’t endorse a candidate for governor because of concerns about both incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and his challenger, Republican Bruce Rauner.
In a news release issued Friday, IRMA’s president and CEO, Rob Karr, who serves as treasurer of the association’s political arm, said retailers “were caught between a desire to see Illinois stabilized and revitalized, and discerning which candidate could best accomplish that mission.”
Karr said Friday that after separate meetings with both candidates, the Illinois Merchants Political Action Committee Team (IMPACT), IRMA’s political arm, unanimously agreed to endorse no one in the governor’s race.
“We are sending the message that, when it comes to the retail community, we couldn’t pick one over the other,” Karr said.
IRMA represents 20,000 member retailers statewide, covering a broad spectrum that includes restaurants, supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores and fashion and general merchandisers, so there is no single overriding issue that outweighs all others, he said.
“We (retailers) face so many issues,” he said. “We don’t boil it down to three, four or five.”
Karr declined to say for whom he would vote.
“That’s private,” he said, adding that he never misses voting in an election and that he and IRMA want everyone to vote.
IRMA’s inaction is expected to most hurt Rauner because IRMA has traditionally endorsed Republicans. The group endorsed Republicans in four of the past six gubernatorial elections dating back to its first endorsement, that of Republican Jim Edgar in 1990.
The two exceptions were IRMA’s endorsements of Rod Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006. Blagojevich is serving time in prison on corruption charges.
The news release said “Governor Quinn was recognized for his leadership in beginning the process of reforming workers’ compensation, fundamentally addressing the state’s broken pension system, championing leveling the sales tax disparity between Illinois retailers and their Internet competitors, significantly lowering the state’s payment backlog to vendors, and preserving the agreed bill process for unemployment insurance.
“Conversely, concerns exist that the state will not continue to control spending and retailers disagree with proposals championed by the Governor that significantly add to the cost of doing business, such as increasing the minimum wage, which will make it harder to increase employment in the retail and service sector.”
As for Rauner, the release said his “passion and dedication to Illinois are evident and his desire to limit the growth of government and return Illinois to economic prosperity cannot be questioned and are shared by retailers.”
But the news release added, “At this time, it is unclear how Mr. Rauner would accomplish these goals.”
“Additionally, concerns exist over Mr. Rauner’s lack of support for leveling the sales tax disparity between Illinois retailers and their Internet competitors, the viability of preserving payment backlogs while proposing additional spending, the viability of the agreed bill process for unemployment insurance, and support for minimum wage increases.”