Calling incumbent Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a “failed governor,” conservative State Rep. Jeanne Ives says she cannot leave the GOP field to a man who broke countless promises and ended up doing the bidding of the Chiacgo Democrats.
Ives, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran, was first elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2012. The GOP primary in Illinois is March 20.
Rauner was elected in 2014 on a platform of reforming government in Illinois and seriously addressing the state’s looming fiscal crisis. Instead, he is branded now by National Review as the worst Republican governor in America, after raising taxes instead of cutting them, signing a bill that forbids law enforcement from checking the immigration status of people they stop, and enacting taxpayer-funded abortion in the state.
“Let’s be clear. Gov. Rauner is a failed governor. He’s specifically a failed Republican governor, which is why I’m challenging him,” said Ives.
She says one issue in particular triggered her primary challenge.
“The tipping point really became when he signed taxpayer funding of abortion, because that’s the point at which I started to get calls from colleagues and other Republicans around the state saying, ‘We do not want him to run unopposed. We need someone else to stand up for us,'” said Ives.
Rauner tries to downplay the abortion bill by saying he’s pro-choice but the party is a big tent and he has supported pro-life candidates in the past. Ives says all Republicans in Springfield, regardless of their position on abortion, were appalled by Rauner’s actions.
“No Republican, even Republicans who consider themselves pro-choice in our legislature, none of us signed on for taxpayer funding of abortion. None of us did. He told us he was going to veto that bill and then did not and decided to sign it anyway, based on his wife being very pro-choice and based on his own propensity of being pro-choice,” said Ives.
“He enacted with that bill the economic agenda and the social agenda of the Chicago Democrats, rather than a Republican conservative reform agenda,” added Ives.
In addition to the moral revulsion of Rauner’s support for the abortion legislation, Ives says the governor saddled Illinois taxpayers with another massive tax bill.
“He lied to us. He betrayed who we are as Republicans and he put in a brand new entitlement program in a state that it literally bankrupt. Nobody does that,” said Ives.
Rauner also took a lot of heat from the right for failing to stop Democrats from pushing new tax increases into law when the state’s budget hung in limbo last year. The governor said people need to realize he does not run Illinois and that Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan is actually more powerful than he is.
Ives finds that excuse revolting.
“He needs to resign over that comment, quite frankly. The idea that the governor says, ‘I’m not in charge.’ Are you kidding me? It just tells you where he is in terms of his fight and his stance. That’s just nonsense,” said Ives.
Democrats do enjoy large majorities in the state legislature, including a 67-51 margin in the state house and a 37-22 edge in the state senate. However, Ives says Rauner needed to do more to get Democrats to join him in doing the things he promised in 2014.
“There’s much you can do in terms of turning the state around and getting the buy-in from the legislators to do that, and Gov. Rauner just didn’t do that. He picked a personal fight with our longtime serving Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, who does wield a lot of control. However, he didn’t build the coalitions that would make the bills possible for a turnaround,” said Ives.
So how would Ives be different?
“We’re just the worst-run state in the nation. We need to reverse course on nearly every policy. We need policy revolution and I’m ready to lead that revolt,” said Ives, who says she knows where she would start.
“We’ll go after public corruption. Corruption is an everyday event in the state of Illinois and it is something that the executive is charged to deal with, which is enforce our laws.
“We’re all about spending reform. Look, Illinois pensions are the worst in the nation and it’s crowding out all the other services we need to spend money on,” said Ives.
Ives says the pension bubble is a major problem at both the state and local levels, and old methods of kicking the can down the road won’t work anymore.
“Chicago’s got a huge, massive balloon payment due that’s going to nearly double its pension costs by 2023. That’s an extra billion dollars that they don’t have and can’t find because they’ve already raised taxes and fees to the hilt,” said Ives, who says Chicago pensions are only 20 percent funded.
Unlike Rauner, Ives says she’s ready to engage in talks with Democrats to fend off the crisis.
“We have a very powerful governorship, we just have a weak man in it. He didn’t want to take on the fights that needed to be taken on after a while and he just got beaten down. Time for new leadership. Time for someone who’s willing to win the conversation and actually do the work to lead this state,” said Ives.
She says that approach is the only hope for Illinois to stay solvent.
“We’ve had the worst job growth in the nation. We’ve had the worst income growth in the nation. We lead in out migration because our taxes are too high. I got involved in politics for economic reasons, so we’re going to focus in on the economic stuff,” she said.
If she can win the nomination, Ives would then run statewide in a deep blue state come November – most likely against billionaire J.B. Pritzker. So how would Ives convince voters with Democratic instincts to give her a chance.
“Most people think that J.B. Pritzker will be the Democratic nominee because he’s supported by Mike Madigan. I think that’s a losing ticket for Illinois. I think you’re going to have a lot of disaffected Democrats not vote for that ticket and instead look for a reformer, look for somebody who’s actually got a record of leading a revolt and speaking out on behalf of taxpayers and working across the aisle when the legislation is good,” said Ives.
First, however, Ives needs to knock off another another billionaire in Rauner. The battle is even more uphill with the state Republicans squarely in Rauner’s corner.
“They want to stick with Rauner because he’s got so much money that he can feed the rest of the legislative races. I think that’s all just a bunch of junk. It’s Gov. Rauner who cannot win in 2018. Nobody is going to re-elect him in 2018 and that’s a bipartisan feel,” said Ives.
Ives says the energy behind her campaign is palpable, as she acquired 16,000 petition signatures without spending any money. There are no recent polls of the race. One from several weeks ago shows Rauner up double figures but below 50 percent among Republicans. Ives believes the race is now neck-and-neck and thinks the trust issue will determine the nominee.
“He may have a lot of name ID but it’s negative and you cannot buy back trust after betrayal. Rauner has betrayed our party. His base is no longer with him. He can’t win in 2018, which is why Republicans deserve an alternative, and an alternative to hiring a plutocrat like Pritzker for the job too,” said Ives.