Gov candidates make last big push to win votes

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State Sen. Bill Brady donned green and walked in the South Side Irish parade; state Sen. Kirk Dillard flew around the state propped up by his biggest political asset, former Gov. Jim Edgar; and Bruce Rauner focused on Downstate voters as the candidates made that last big push before Tuesday’s primary election.

The beleaguered Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, meanwhile, wound down his efforts to a whisper, not disclosing his final movements to the public in advance of the four-way GOP gubernatorial showdown. 

Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, appeared at the Union League Club of Chicago on Sunday, holding an event with Edgar, who played the dual role of attack dog and elder statesman championing his former chief of staff.

“If you’re governor for the state of Illinois, you’re governor for everybody. You just can’t be governor for a bunch of rich Republicans,” Edgar said in a reference to front-runner Rauner. “You have to represent everyone. I think that vote demonstrated that Kirk had that ability,” Edgar said referring to Dillard’s vote against pension reform. 

Edgar defended Dillard’s recent alliance with public sector unions who backed him as the best alternative to Rauner, who has waged war with what he calls “government union bosses.”

On a separate front, various unions were working “vigorously” to get out the vote, according to Steve Shearer, the chairman of the Fund for Progress and Jobs, which began as an anti-Rauner group and added efforts to boost Dillard’s candidacy. Shearer said unions are reaching out to members, sending out emails and mailers and making phone calls to push for a crossover vote Tuesday. Shearer’s own efforts included 200,000 robocalls statewide, he said. 

“They are furiously working this weekend. I’ve heard from teachers with the IEA and IFT, they’ve got mailings and they’ve got phone calls,” Shearer said. “There’s going to be a crossover effort. The degree? That’s the big $64,000 question.”

“I expect Rauner to cross over as well and vote in the Republican primary,” Shearer said in an obvious dig against the candidate, who pulled a Democratic primary ballot in 2006. Rauner said he did so to back Forrest Claypool over Todd Stroger. 

Rauner, a multimillionaire venture capitalist, was mining for votes on Brady’s political home turf on Sunday and predicting victory Tuesday.

“This is our year. This is our election,” Rauner, with running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti at his side, told about 50 supporters at McGorray’s Golf and Grille in Decatur. The appearance there was part of a three-stop tour Sunday that included events in Quincy and Champaign, swaths of Downstate that Rauner promised not to neglect as governor.

“Every community matters. We’re going to lead for the entire state, not just northeast Illinois — the entire state of Illinois,” Rauner said. “We want a booming economy in Illinois.”

Despite polls showing a 20-point advantage for Rauner, Brady of Bloomington disputed the idea that the Winnetka Republican has run away with the race.

“We don’t think he is. His support is waning. The luster of his $1 million campaign ads has worn off. People are coming back home to what they know they can trust, the candidacy they know and feel comfortable with,” said Brady, who predicted his own victory Tuesday. “We’re confident. Polls open in less than two days, and we know we’re going to win this just like we did four years ago.” 

Edgar echoed Brady’s contention that Rauner’s huge lead in the polls didn’t mean the race was over, maintaining it hinged largely on voter turnout.

Edgar said Rauner’s position as front-runner is due to his flush campaign fund. Rauner has pumped $6 million of his own money into his campaign, and he has raised more than $6 million from others, including huge donations from some of the wealthiest people in the state.

“If he had the same amount of money as Kirk Dillard, Kirk Dillard would be ahead of him 3-to-1 in the polls today,” Edgar contended. “It’s purely money in my estimation, why he has the leads he has in he polls. The other thing I would also caution you: It’s very difficult to poll in a primary. Those numbers are not accurate. Turnout is the key. You don’t know what the turnout’s going to be. You don’t know what the crossover votes are going to be.”

Dillard took shots at Rauner as well but did not mention him by name.

“You’re not going to beat Pat Quinn with a bazillionaire who’s so out of touch with working families that he sees nothing wrong with bending the rules that all other Illinoisans have to live with,” Dillard said. “We can’t let the .01 percent decide what’s the best for Illinois.”

Rutherford’s final weekend concluded in a clandestine manner. The treasurer would not release his schedule to the public. Earlier in the race, Rutherford was seen as being the biggest threat to Rauner until a former state employee filed a federal lawsuit claiming sexual harassment and political intimidation by Rutherford. Rutherford accused Rauner’s campaign of orchestrating the allegations, something it vehemently denied. He then ordered an internal inquiry into the ex-employee’s allegations only to later refuse to release it.

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