ILLINOIS — Democrats running to unseat Governor Bruce Rauner in 2018 pounced on his statewide tour Tuesday, deriding it as a dereliction of duty.
Rauner flew on a small private airplane along with campaign staff and volunteers from Chicago to Rockford, Rock Island, Peoria and finally to Springfield, meeting with voters and supporters at each stop. The Illinois GOP described the Springfield stop as a “campaign event” in an email, although the Republican governor later denied it was an official campaign visit.
Chris Kennedy issued a scathing takedown in a statement, proclaiming, “Rauner owes it to the people of Illinois to explain why his Turnaround Agenda is more important than a state budget.”
The General Assembly is not in session this week or next, and the governor cannot single-handedly enact a state budget.
Billionaire candidate J.B. Pritzker used a nearly identical line of attack, echoing his Democratic rival.
“Bruce Rauner chooses to hit the campaign trail instead of working to pass a much-needed budget.”
A third Democrat repeated the same message. “Instead of working on passing a state budget that is now more than 21 months overdue, Governor Rauner is out campaigning,” said Ameya Pawar, a Chicago city Alderman.
The Illinois Republican party has sought to paint the entire field of Democratic primary challengers as puppets or political proteges of House Speaker and Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, Michael Madigan. The individual candidates have each dismissed those assertions, but Tuesday’s synchronized statements could raise questions about how much longer primary candidates can afford to aim all their ammunition at Rauner and not at each other.
State senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) has not yet released a statement condemning the governor’s public appearance without a budget, perhaps he too has hit the campaign trail without a budget in place. The stalled ‘Grand Bargain’ negotiations would have to first pass the Senate before the interlocking bills would reach the governor’s desk.
At a campaign event two weeks ago, Biss speculated along with Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Lawn) that the state of Illinois would continue without a full budget until at least 2019.
Governor Rauner plans to continue his travels on Wednesday, with stops in Quincy, East Alton, Marion, Robinson and Champaign.