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Rauner brings new dynamic to the Statehouse

Rauner brings new dynamic to the Statehouse


SPRINGFIELD — Republican Bruce Rauner said he'd shake up Springfield if voters gave him the chance.

And now, after dispatching Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in an expensive and contentious race for governor Tuesday, Rauner — and Illinois voters — will find out beginning in January whether a man with no political experience can deliver on the promises he made.

With 99 percent of the votes counted, the wealthy venture capitalist from Winnetka held a 170,000-plus vote lead over Quinn. Rauner's margin of victory — 51 percent to 46 percent — was wider than anticipated in the frenzied closing days of a long campaign season.

After waiting to assess whether any more votes would come in, Quinn conceded in a short statement on Wednesday afternoon and named his chief of staff as a liaison to the Rauner transition effort.

"It's clear that we do not have enough votes to win the election," Quinn said.

Rauner, who spent $27 million of his fortune to win the top spot in Illinois government, swept every county in the state except for the Democratic stronghold of Cook County.

When Rauner takes office in January, however, rhetoric from the campaign will be replaced by the reality that he must grapple with a Legislature controlled by the party he spent a year criticizing.

Everything from his plans to make Illinois more friendly to businesses to dealing with the expiration of the temporary income tax increase on Jan. 1 will be under the microscope of a General Assembly firmly under Democratic control.

Rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the dynamic under the Statehouse dome may have changed, but the problems facing the state remain the same.

"The challenges are still there whether its balancing the budget or school funding reform," said state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who won a second term over Macon County Board member Linda Little on Tuesday.

Manar said members of the Republican minority will have to step up now that they've got a governor in the Executive Mansion.

"The Republicans in the Senate have refused to be part of the discussion in how we govern the state," Manar said.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, agreed Republicans in the House and Senate will have to play a different role with Rauner at the helm. Rather than staying on the sidelines and voting "no," he said, "Now we have to be for something."

"It isn't going to be easy," Mitchell said. "The Democrats aren't going to do him any favors."

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said Rauner should consider outlining a 60-day plan, a six-month plan and a plan for the next fiscal year in order to lay out how the state will operate once the temporary tax hike expires, blowing a $4 billion hole in the budget.

"An aircraft carrier doesn't turn in the ocean on a dime," Rose said. "It won't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen easily."

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, said Rauner needs to spend the next two months mending fences.

"To be effective, the same people he was calling names, he's going to have to have as friends," Phelps said.

Phelps said Rauner might want to seek counsel from former Gov. Jim Edgar on how to deal with powerful Statehouse figures like House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats.

"He needs to learn the process. He can't come in and think he's going to bully us," Phelps said.

State Rep. Pat Verschoore, a Milan Democrat, said Rauner needs to better outline his plans for dealing with the big issues facing the state, including the looming revenue shortfall when the tax hike begins to roll back.

"He's going to have to tell us his plan to right the ship," Verschoore said.

State Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican who lost to Quinn in 2010, said Rauner's win shows voters were tired of Quinn's "failed leadership." But that means Republicans must play a bigger role.

"I think it means we're all going to have to work together," Brady said. "We're going to have to look at every option we have."

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he was surprised by Rauner's win.

"I didn't think he could win a general election. I thought that they would vilify him for being a rich guy," Luechtefeld said.

And now that Rauner's in?

"He knows he won't get much done unless he gets some cooperation from Madigan and Cullerton," Luechtefeld said.

In the end, Mitchell said residents in his Central Illinois district and around the state will benefit from a new leader.

"As a governor, Quinn was just so bad," Mitchell said. "We need an adult down on the second floor who has a level of competence in running the state agencies."


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