Wealthy former private equity executive Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois Tuesday, setting the stage for a general election showdown against Gov. Pat Quinn (D), viewed by many observers as the most vulnerable Democratic governor running for reelection this year.
A first-time candidate, Rauner defeated three other Republican officeholders and overcame a coordinated effort from labor and other Democrats designed to weaken him. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Rauner, who led state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R) 40 percent to 37 percent, a closer margin than many had anticipated.
Rauner spent $6 million of his own money, raising some $8 million more from donors. He fought a multimillion-dollar coordinated effort from labor unions designed to weaken him. Rauner launched his bid with a vow to take on "government union bosses," stoking fears from public unions that he would sharply curtail their influence if elected. Labor groups sought to elevate Dillard, who opposed a pension reform measure.
Quinn signed the law last year, which was designed to address the state's massive unfunded pension obligations. The plan would slash benefits for state employees and has drawn the ire of an organized labor coalition.
The Democratic governor easily won re-nomination against only a token Democratic opponent. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley dropped his short-lived challenge to the governor last September, clearing the way for him to coast to the nomination as the Republicans fought one another. Quinn's image has struggled against the backdrop of the state's fiscal woes, but he has survived through a combination of luck and skill. Still, he remains vulnerable to a challenge.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and will begin the general election as sizable underdog against Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat.
In a U.S. House race Republicans and Democrat were watching, Rep. Rodney Davis (R) and former judge Ann Callis (D) advanced to a competitive general election showdown.