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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Rauner Leads in Endorsements, But There’s Still One Big One Left

Newspaper endorsements roll in for Rauner, but nothing yet from the paper in our state’s capital. Why?

 Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune

Bruce Rauner’s campaign was understandably crowing on Sunday after it racked up still more endorsements—from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Peoria Journal-Star, and the News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Those are the icing on the endorsement cake for Rauner, who has already received endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Belleville News-Democrat, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Shaw Media.

The Rauner campaign’s Rich Goldberg ends a celebratory email with the line: “Endorsements For Quinn”—“None.”

There’s one paper missing from the list, and that’s an exceedingly important news organization for all things state government—the State Journal-Register, the only daily in Springfield, our state’s capital. The SJR endorsed Democrat Dick Durbin yesterday for the U.S. Senate, and, for Congress in the 13th District, Republican Rodney Davis. But no endorsement for the state’s top job.

In advance of the gubernatorial primary last March, all the candidates for governor appeared before the paper’s editorial board for the session that would result in an endorsement—except for Bruce Rauner. When asked about it by the paper’s political columnist, Bernard Schoenburg, Rauner laughed:

‘You’re telling me something I don’t know.’ He also said he would ‘love to’ meet with the board… The other three Republican candidates and Quinn all met with the editorial board of the paper, which happens to be in the city Rauner’s campaign says he wants to ’shake up.’

In the Republican primary, the paper endorsed Kirk Dillard. I emailed Angie Muhs, the State Journal-Register’s executive editor, this morning to ask her why no endorsement yet and did Rauner ever appear before the editorial board for the general election endorsement session. Pat Quinn appeared on September 24.

Here’s my questions followed by Muhs’s answers:

I know that Quinn has appeared before your editorial board but that Rauner has not, and that Rauner did not appear during the primary either. Could you confirm the accuracy of that?

Yes, Gov. Quinn appeared before our editorial board on Sept. 24. Mr. Rauner did not appear before the editorial board in the primary and has not yet visited us for the general. I personally spoke to Mr. Rauner during two campaign appearances in Springfield and extended an invitation both times. Jayette Bolinski [the paper’s editorial page editor] also has sent numerous emails to the campaign and followed up personally with [campaign spokeswoman] Lyndsey Walters at an event. Clarissa Williams, our publisher, has spoken with [Rauner communications director] Mike Schrimpf.

Do you think Rauner will appear before election day, November 4?

As of this morning, he has not appeared. As we have communicated to his campaign, we certainly would welcome a visit from Mr. Rauner. We believe it is important to be able to ask him personally about key issues facing the state. We also post videos from the session online, so we believe he would be providing valuable information to voters as well.

Will the paper be endorsing in this race and when?

Yes, the SJR does plan to endorse in the governor’s race; we feel it is too important of a contest to not endorse. We intend to endorse on Sunday Oct. 26. The Rauner campaign is aware of that schedule.

 

As governor, Pat Quinn has disappointed state workers because of his stance on pensions and because he has not lived up to his promise to live in the governor’s mansion, notwithstanding his promise that he had left his underwear there. Former governor Jim Edgar, who lived with his family in the mansion, told me when I interviewed him for a profile of Rauner that living in the mansion is “very important” to Springfield’s residents. “Chicago has the most money, but the state’s capital is Springfield,” Edgar told me. “[Living in Springfield] is a huge factor there and all of downstate. If the governor is in the mansion he’ll be in Springfield more, more involved. People in Springfield notice. It’s more important than taxes, [or your] position on the environment and law enforcement.”

Rauner has promised to move in with his wife, but his statements denigrating public workers during the primary—much toned down during the general election—have probably not been forgotten. And somehow it might be a little hard to believe that a man with nine homes would actually keep that promise to live in the leaky Springfield mansion.

A final thought about this: The State Journal-Register’s editorial board, rightly, is pushing and pushing again for Rauner to appear before its members in advance of its issuing its endorsement. Again, as Ms. Muhs writes above: “We believe it is important to be able to ask [Rauner] personally about key issues facing the state.” Because of the Sun-Times’ non-endorsement policy, suddenly lifted only for the gubernatorial race in time to endorse Rauner, it’s worth noting that neither Rauner nor Quinn were interviewed. The endorsement, in my opinion, carries less weight because of that.

UPDATE 10/27: The State Journal-Register endorsed Rauner on Saturday, October 25. That leaves Rauner with the support of every major state newspaper except the Rockford Register Star, who endorsed Gov. Quinn yesterday.

UPDATE 10/21: Angie Muhs at the State Journal-Register says that the Rauner campaign contacted the SJR on Tuesday, October 21, to meet. The candidate is tentatively scheduled to meet with the paper’s editorial team later this week.

Carol Felsenthal is a lifelong Chicagoan and self-proclaimed political junkie. She writes occasionally for Politico Magazine and The Hill. Her books include biographies of Bill Clinton, Katharine Graham, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Among her many stories for Chicago are memorable profiles of Michelle Obama and Bruce Rauner. Follow her on Twitter at @csfelsenthal.

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