January 9, 2014. Alton, IL. Illinois Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner may have done some serious damage to his political aspirations on the statewide level. His campaign’s clean-up job wasn’t much better. During a local AM radio interview, the billionaire star of the 2014 Governor’s race said he favored lowering Illinois’ minimum wage by a full dollar per hour.
IL GOP candidate for Governor Bruce Rauner. Image courtesy of Watchdog.org.
While the rest of the country is raising their local and state minimum wages rather than wait for the federal government to finally raise it nationwide, Republican candidate Bruce Rauner wants to roll the clock backward here in Illinois and lower the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $7.25 per hour. Currently, about half the states in the country mandate a higher minimum wage than the national $7.25.
Rauner and the Republican Party line
If Bruce Rauner made one mistake on Tuesday during his interview with Alton’s local WGBZ-AM radio station, it was telling the truth. The party’s number one sponsor and benefactor has long been the world’s multi-national corporations and the wealthy millionaires and billionaires that make up their stock holders. And they would love nothing more than to see minimum wages lowered, or eliminated all together. In fact, in a number of Deep South red-Republican states, they’ve been successful and there currently are no state minimum wage laws.
“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” the Chicago Sun Times was quick to quote the first-time candidate saying, “I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois.” Almost immediately, Democratic Governor Quinn and a number of Democratic state lawmakers jumped on the opportunity to defend the working poor and the working class. They hit Rauner hard, with one going as far as calling the GOP candidate, “delusional.”
Within 24 hours, the Rauner campaign released a statement dialing back his earlier comments, but not going back on his position of wanting to lower the state’s minimum wage. Yesterday’s statement read, ‘Bruce is all about improving schools and making the Illinois economy more competitive. In that context, he would support raising the national minimum wage so that other states are in line with Illinois.’
In other words, Bruce Rauner just wants Illinois’ businesses and factories competing on a level playing field as everyone else. And lowering the state’s minimum wage is one way to get there. The candidate’s statement yesterday actually said Rauner could support the other side of the debate as well – raising the state’s minimum wage as Governor Quinn supports doing. But he insists workers would have to make a trade-off and give up certain rights they currently enjoy like unemployment insurance and workman’s comp.
Democrats go after Rauner, and Republicans
Only hours after Bruce Rauner made the statement about lowering Illinois’ minimum wage, his potential November General Election opponent, Governor Pat Quinn, sent his spokespeople out to take advantage of the blunder. While the policy may play well with the billionaire wing of the Republican Party and may help Rauner in the March Primary, the position isn’t likely to sit well with average struggling workers, independents and disgruntled Democrats who the first-time candidate could have picked-up as the race’s only ‘outsider’.
“Instead of alleviating poverty, this cruel and backwards proposal would take thousands of dollars from working people who are doing some of the hardest, most difficult jobs in our society,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told the Sun Times, “We’re talking about people who are cleaning and busing tables, people who are caring for our elderly, people who are working in support of disabilities. To take $2,000 a year from those who are earning minimum wage is not only cruel and shameful, it also hurts our economy.”
Never slow to pick a fight if the cause is right, Rep. Louis Lang (D-Skokie) also quickly issued a harsh rebuttal to Rauner’s proposal. Calling Bruce Rauner “delusional,” Lang said, “In my twenty-six years in the Legislature, I’ve seen many candidates roll out anti-poverty plans. But Bruce Rauner is the only candidate to roll out a pro-poverty plan.”
Down to the wire
We at the Illinois Herald like to think we have our thumb on the pulse of Illinois voters. And our gut says that Bruce Rauner may have hurt his chances at winning the November General Election, but helped his chances of winning the March Republican Primary. It’s too soon for any polls to verify or dispute that. But according to the latest media polls, the GOP Primary race was Rauner’s to lose.
In a series of PPP polls published by Real Clear Politics, the late November survey showed the four Republican candidates for Governor in a virtual dead heat. Paired individually against Governor Quinn, 2010’s GOP nominee State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) would tie Quinn with 41% each. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford would beat Quinn 41-39. State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) would tie Quinn with 39% apiece. And Bruce Rauner would lose to Quinn 41-38.
What the polls show is that all four Republican candidates would tally between 38 and 41 percent. That’s pretty much a dead heat between them. Bruce Rauner, starting at single digits and with no name recognition, definitely had the momentum coming into the new year. Whether his comments about lowering the minimum wage will hurt his chances in March, we’ll know when the next round of polls comes out.
Our feeling is that Republican voters like what they see in the billionaire outsider who’s not really an outsider. And being in favor of lowering Illinois’ minimum wage is like outlawing meanness. It’ll never happen, so go ahead and support it.
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