The Republican Primary for Illinois governor doesn't happen until early next year, but yesterday voters in Champaign County heard from all four candidates and chose their favorite in a straw poll.
As IPR's Sean Powers reports, party faithfuls also had the chance to reflect on the G-O-P's vision:
Six months to go....four candidates...four sets of ideas. It's a crowded field leading up to the Republican Primary for Illinois governor. In a straw poll at the Champaign County Republican Party's annual Fall Festival on Sunday, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford came out on top. Rutherford's message ahead of the vote was clear...for the Republican Party to grow, it must diversify.
RUTHERFORD: "We have to accept that there are people out there that should be and could be good Republicans that are different skin colors than us. They pray to a different God than us. They have a different mother country than some of us western Europeans got."
One example of that diversity can be seen in Rutherford's choice for a running mate. He picked Chicago Attorney Steve Kim, who if elected, would be the state's first Asian American lieutenant governor. Bruce Rauner, a Chicago Venture Capitalist, took second in the straw poll. Rauner calls the G-O-P "the party of America." He wants Republicans to rally around lower taxes, limited government, and personal responsibility. He says he can restore the state.
RAUNER: "My youngest daughter said, 'Daddy, don't run for governor. I don't want you to go to jail.' I said, 'Katie, that's one of the reasons I want to run. I'm going to put all those corrupt guys in prison, and all their cronies,' The government union bosses who make their money from the taxpayers own the Democratic Party and unfortunately for us they own a lot of the Republicans in Springfield, too. And we got to change that."
Rauner is pushing for a ballot initiative to make it more difficult to override a governor's veto. He also wants to change the makeup of the General Assembly, and push for term limits.
State Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale stresses the importance of fixing the state's finances, and strengthening higher education at schools, like the University of Illinois. Dillard narrowly lost the Republican Primary for governor in 2010, and in Sunday's straw poll, he came in third place. Dillard served as former Republican Governor Jim Edgar's chief of staff, and he's determined to see Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan back in the minority.
DILLARD: "We're going to do the same thing that we did in the Edgar administration with Mike Madigan. We're going to make him the minority leader. And we also want every, every constitutional office statewide. So, I am the electable Republican. I know how to make a Democratic legislature do things that's not in its DNA to do like live within its means."
Bill Brady, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor in 2010, came in last in Sunday's straw poll. The state senator from Bloomington urges voters to give him another shot, so that he can fix Illinois' unemployment rate, address the unfunded pension liability, and attract new businesses.
BRADY: "The Democrats and Pat Quinn are about supersizing things when we need a value meal, and that means lower taxes, more efficient government, and that's what we need to do as Republicans and that's what we need to promote."
After the candidates speak, Harriet Rose holds onto flyers and pamphlets from each of them. Her son is State Senator Chapin Rose of Mahomet. Rose is still undecided, and says she likes what they all had to say.
ROSE: "Brady made a grammar mistake, which really he shouldn't have done that."
POWERS: "Are you going to hold that against him?"
ROSE: "No" (laughs) "No I won't."
Rose says she wants a governor who can turn the state's economy around.
ROSE: "The Illinois economy really needs a boost, and taxes are a problem. I wish we could take back some of the power from Chicago."
Champaign resident Todd Hunter was also at the event. This is the first year the candidates can pick their own running mates, something Hunter says will be on his mind as he decides who to support.
HUNTER: "It's really the only insight into who else they'd pick, and whether they're going for a strong personal relationship or something they think will be attractive to certain voters or all voters or fundraising. It tells me what their priorities are. "
The final tally on the straw poll shows Dan Rutherford with just more than half of the vote, followed by Bruce Rauner with just under a quarter, then Kirk Dillard with about 20 percent. Finally, Bill Brady trailing with less than 10 percent. But like any campaign, a lot can change in six months.
Support Your Public Radio Station