DECATUR — As he worked the room Tuesday at Stripmasters Services Inc., Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner painted this November’s election as a stark choice.
The first-term governor has sought to link Democratic opponent, JB Pritzker, to longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, describing both as corrupt. He brought a similar message during his Decatur stop.
"Are we going to have a better future for our children and our grandchildren," he said, "or are we going to stay under the thumb of the corruption and self-dealing and high taxes of the Chicago political machine of Madigan and Pritzker? … Turn out the lights in the state of Illinois if those guys get any more power.”
Rauner was on day two of "The Fight For What’s Right” tour. He's traveling the state, rallying a GOP base and serving up barbecue from Bruce’s BBQ Big Rig, a specially outfitted tractor-trailer owned by Illinois Agriculture Director Raymond Poe.
Several dozen people crammed inside the Stripmasters break room to hear Rauner speak for about 10 minutes. Calling November “the most important election of my lifetime,” Rauner stressed the importance of voting for GOP candidates down the ballot. Electing more Republicans would make it possible to enact more measures that Rauner has long supported, such as term limits for elected officials, he said.
“We’re going to work our tails off to pick up at least two seats in the Senate and pick up nine seats in the House of Representatives,” Rauner said. “Mike Madigan will be gone!”
Rauner also mentioned several times the amount of job growth that has occurred during his 3½ years in Springfield, with more than 200,000 new jobs, and the governor saying he hoped to add "half a million” good-paying jobs during a second term.
Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the state has grown 208,000 jobs over Rauner’s tenure, which ranks near the bottom nationally in terms of job growth. During the first first 3½ years of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who Rauner defeated in 2014, the state grew 238,000 jobs, according to figures from the bureau.
Other candidates for governor include Libertarian Party candidate Kash Jackson and Sam McCann, a state senator from Plainview running as a member of the Conservative Party.
Pritzker, who secured the Democratic nomination in a crowded primary, on Monday was endorsed by former President Barack Obama. On Sunday, he put $20 million into his campaign, bringing his record self-funding total to $126.5 million. Rauner has contributed $95.3 million of his own money. Both men have successful backgrounds in business.
An NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday found Pritzker with 46 percent support, compared to 30 percent for Rauner, with another 13 percent undecided. The survey found Jackson with 6 percent and McCann with 4 percent.
Tuesday’s stop comes just over six months after state Rep. Jeannie Ives, who ran against Rauner in the March primary election, visited Stripmasters during her campaign. At the time, owner Mark Scranton said he supported Ives because he had seen “zero improvement” under Rauner’s administration.
Speaking after Tuesday’s event, Scranton said he would support Rauner this fall, describing the decision as an easy one.
“Between the two choices, Rauner is the clear choice,” Scranton said, adding he believes Pritzker’s policies would be a “death sentence” for small businesses.
But he said he hoped that the incumbent’s narrow primary victory would send a message that conservatives in Illinois expect more from a second term.
Asked about Scranton’s previous remarks, Rauner said he has been endorsed by “every business group and every small business owner in the state.”
“Every job creator is supporting (Lt. Gov.) Evelyn Sanguinetti and me because we’re fighting to roll back regulations, fighting to reduce taxes and fighting to recruit businesses,” Rauner said.