CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner raised eyebrows, then questions about whether he misspoke after he declared “I am not in charge” of the state. Now it looks like the comment could haunt him all the way until Election Day.
The Republican, who’s seeking his second term in 2018, made the unusual declaration last week, telling reporters he’s “trying to get to be” in charge of Illinois but has been blocked by his political nemesis, longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Rauner stood by the remark the next day and added, “Everyone in this state knows what I’m talking about.”
Rauner’s words have reverberated across Illinois, drawing criticism from Democrats, GOP primary challenger Rep. Jeanne Ives and even some of Rauner’s biggest supporters.
Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, one of seven people seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, released a video that features a clip of a wide-eyed Rauner making the forceful comments, interspersed with negative news coverage about problems in state agencies. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton called on Rauner to “take charge” of drafting a new state budget, adding: “It’s hard to run a state without a governor.”
Even newspaper editorial boards that endorsed Rauner in 2014 and have consistently supported his pro-business agenda chastised him. “Stop griping,” the Chicago Tribune wrote.
Rauner’s sentiment regarding Madigan wasn’t new. For years, the wealthy former private equity investor has blamed Illinois’ many problems — financial and otherwise — on Madigan, who leads the state Democratic Party and is widely considered the most powerful politician in Illinois.