SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — To win four years ago, Bruce Rauner campaigned as a fiscal conservative with no social agenda.
He offered up a 44-point turnaround plan to shake up Springfield. Conservative and moderate Republicans loved it.
But not long after Rauner took office, the right revolted. When it was time to seek reelection, he drew a primary challenge from State Rep. Jeanne Ives.
"You know I started to lose hope that he was really going to be on the track fiscally as soon as he entered office," Ives said. "And it had to do with him expanding massively pre-school in a state where we couldn’t afford it. We were going to try to grab on to $20 million per year on a federal grant. But we were going to have to phony up $400 million just to get that money."
It’s not just finances. Ives’ anger exploded when Rauner approved a law protecting undocumented immigrants and then later signed a measure expanding taxpayer-subsidized abortions.
"I’m a social conservative and we’ve taken it on the chin, even under a Republican governor, we’ve not gotten what we wanted. The promises were not kept," Ives said.
Rauner defeated Ives by a razor thin margin, about 20,000 votes. After the primary, party leaders emphasized the need for unity. But Rauner and Ives did not do that.
When asked if she did everything she could to help him win, Ives said: "That was never my job. I was very upfront with people."
Ives predicts Rauner will lose, but she says she will vote for him.
Republican State Sen. Sam McCann has charted a different course.
"You’re a liar," McCann said of Rauner during a gubernatorial debate. "You’ve been lying to the people of Illinois from the very beginning. You said you would have no social agenda and all you’ve been able to accomplish is to make yourself the most progressive, liberal governor the state of Illinois has ever had. You’re a liar and thief."
McCann is running under the Conservative Party banner.
Rauner and his allies say this about McCann: "He’s a charlatan. He’s a plant by Madigan and Pritzker to try to siphon votes off. He’s a phony."
McCann is backed by the Democratic-friendly International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
"He’s a phony candidate," said conservative Rep. David McSweeney
McSweeney has been harsh critic of Governor Rauner, but he’s sticking with him in the race.
"Our best hope is to reelect Rauner because he’s not going to opening promote tax increases. But I’d be a hypocrite if I said positive things about the first term. It’s been a fiasco across the board," McSweeney said.
Like Ives, the McSweeney fears Rauner could be doomed. But he sees a chance for the conservative movement to regroup.
"If Bruce Rauner ends up losing we need to realize that we need to go back to our grassroots. We need to be inclusive. We need to be a positive party. We’ve got to stop calling people names and focus on a agenda that makes sense," McSweeney said.
McSweeney introduced WGN to Lynn, a suburban Republican who works with his wife.
"I cannot in good conscience vote for Governor Rauner again because he’s delivered zero of his promises. So I have to look honestly at McCann," she said.
And that is the predicament for Rauner. He needs voters like Lynn but some of them are going to vote for McCann or leave their ballot for governor blank. On the eve of the election, Rauner’s winning coalition four years ago appears to be splintered.
Also, on the ballot is Libertarian Kash Jackson.