Here’s the background for everyone fortunate enough to live elsewhere:
Illinois’ primary election is coming up shortly. On the Republican side, we’ve got incumbent Bruce Rauner, and his opponent Jeanne Ives. She’s attacking him from the right, on social issues (and doing so, in internet ads, in a way that has riled people up), though you wouldn’t know it from her website, where she promises to rescind the income tax hike, and that’s about it. Logic would dictate that she has no chance, but Rauner has been sending multiple campaign mailers our way (once, three in a day), accusing her of being in Madigan’s back pocket, and has been running ads with the same message, with a sound bite in which she seems to defend Madigan, but, I’m guessing, came from some sort of candidate forum in which she criticized Rauner’s message of “I’m the right guy for the job and I would have accomplished my proposals but for Evil Mike Madigan.” Which is kind of like someone saying, “I would have had no trouble going from here to there except for the [wall, mountain, river, ocean] in the way.” Does that mean that Ives is more of a threat than I imagine to be the case? There seem to be no polls that I can find, but perhaps Rauner’s fear is that most Republicans will stay home, leaving only committed Ives supporters voting. But his strategy of staking everything on the message, “Ives is a Madigan tool,” doesn’t seem like it would be particularly effective against the typical primary voter.
On the Democratic side, of course, we’ve got a race that’s shaping up to be Pritzker vs. Biss, Pritzker’s ads are either anti-Trump or criticize Biss for having voted for a pension reform bill which was, at the time, passed in a bipartisan fashion as a hoped-for way to deal with the state’s massive pension debt, but which Pritzker is now claiming is an attack on elderly retired teachers. Biss’s main approach is that he’s the only non-gazillionaire in the race, with ads showing his modest Evanston home. Both of these men have promised to ratchet up spending — and taxes — with Biss’s promises being more expansive than Pritzker’s, and including free health care and free college, paid for with the FREE MONEY! of a Merc/Board of Trade transaction tax on nefarious outsiders. Seriously. He’s like Bernie on steroids: subsidized child care, 12 week paid family leave, and universal long-term care programs are also on the list, and, with most of the gay/lesbian and transgender agenda already having been met, he promises that birth certificates will no longer identify the parents as “mother” and “father” but as “parent 1” and “parent 2.”
At the moment, here’s my thought: Illinois is headed to fiscal ruin, with a just-barely investment-grade bond rating, massive pension obligations coming due, and a stack of unpaid bills. Keeping Rauner in office is like peeling off that band-aid slowly. Electing a Democrat is like ripping the band-aid off, forcing everyone in power to finally change the way they operate. Which is better? In some respects, I’d be happy with hobbling along until my youngest graduates high school, and we’re looking at retirement and the ability to move elsewhere without disrupting the family and jobs. But maybe for the long-term health of the state, we need to rip that band-aid off.
Of course, personally, my current plan is to vote for Ives, not because she’s capable of doing any better than anyone else, but because Rauner betrayed the admittedly-squishy promise he made to preserve the status quo on social issues when he signed the bill funding Medicaid abortions. And in the general election, the expected Rauner vs. Pritzker match-up? At this point, my feeling is that I’ll just skip that entirely, and vote in the other races instead.
Image: Illinois state capitol; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illinoiscapitol2.jpg