By Rick Pearson and Bill Ruthhart
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner weighed in on Chicago's mayoral race Thursday, calling Mayor Rahm Emanuel "corrupt" and lumping him with Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker and House Speaker Michael Madigan as three men who have "got to go."
Rauner also said Chicago was on its own to deal with escalating gun violence and crime and blamed Emanuel and city leaders for being a "failure on jobs" in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The Republican governor's comments attacking Emanuel and city leaders came hundreds of miles south of Chicago in an appearance on WJPF AM-1020 in Marion, which often has provided a platform for Rauner to play regional politics in an appeal to conservative Downstate voters.
Rauner, who has long pushed for term limits for state lawmakers and statewide elected officials, was asked about efforts by the man he defeated for governor in 2014, Democrat Pat Quinn, to push a binding term limit referendum for Chicago that could deny Emanuel from seeking a third term. The effort, though, faces myriad legal questions.
"Emanuel's getting $20 million from his special interest groups. He's corrupt. He's part of the problem in Chicago," Rauner said. "Failure on jobs. Failure on taxes. He's got to go."
"Pritzker, Madigan, Emanuel -- those three guys got to go," he said.
Emanuel does not have $20 million this election cycle -- at least not yet. To date, the mayor has raised more than $10 million toward his bid for a third term, according to state campaign finance records. As for special interests, about $2.4 million of that money has come from unions and another $186,000 from other political action committees, including the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, AT&T employees, Exelon and Ford Motor Company.
Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins responded by characterizing the governor's comments as the latest in a string of unfounded and controversial statements he's made about Chicago.
"Bruce Rauner's Downstate election strategy is centered solely on denigrating Chicago, in large part because he doesn't have any accomplishments worth mentioning. He's said Chicago's children attend schools that are crumbling prisons, he called Chicago's teachers 'virtually illiterate' and he derided a peaceful anti-violence march led by several Chicago ministers as 'chaos,'" Collins said in a statement. "He's wrapping up a term in which he achieved nothing other than gridlock, and I guess desperate times call for desperate rhetoric."
In a 2011 email before he became governor, Rauner told some of Chicago's wealthiest and most influential civic leaders that half of Chicago Public Schools' teachers "are virtually illiterate" and half of the city's principals are "incompetent," according to emails the Chicago Tribune reported about in 2016. Rauner issued an apology for the remarks.
In June 2016, Rauner said his "one major disappointment" in office was Emanuel's failure to stand up to Madigan and escalated his criticism of Chicago Public Schools, calling some "crumbling prisons." Rauner slammed Emanuel's administration and referred to Father Michael Pfleger's anti-violence march on the Dan Ryan Expressway last month as "chaos," after the demonstration was allowed to shut down a state highway.
Rauner's downstate attack on the mayor is the latest fallout from a one-time friendship and business association with Emanuel that cratered over politics.
Rauner repeatedly criticized Emanuel over his handling of schools involving the Chicago Teachers Union and city finances. Emanuel has lashed back over Rauner's involvement in the state's historic budget impasse that slashed social service funding and over the governor's failure to push gun-control initiatives such as state licensing of gun dealers.
During the radio interview, Rauner also contended that it was the role of Emanuel and city leaders to address crime and gun violence and that they, including Pritzker, were to blame for its escalation.
"Chicago leaders have a duty to protect the citizens of Chicago. They've been a failure on jobs. The unemployment rate on the South Side of Chicago is 30-40 percent. It's ridiculous," Rauner said.
"The mayor, the leaders in Chicago have failed on jobs. They've failed on taxes. They've failed on corruption," the governor continued. "Pritzker works for that. He's loyal to that. They've got to solve the problem by fixing the system in Chicago. It's broken."
Collins, Emanuel's spokesman, quipped that Rauner's remarks were "high praise from the man named worst governor in America," a reference to the National Review's designation of Rauner earlier this year as the nation's worst GOP governor.
A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago in January showed that the unemployment rate of African-American males age 20 to 24 is 40 percent in all of Chicago.
Rauner's criticism of Emanuel and Pritzker came after the Democratic governor candidate contended earlier in the week that the Republican governor was responsible for increased gun violence because of the impact of the two-year budget impasse on social services. The impasse ended in July of last year when some Republican lawmakers joined with Democrats to override Rauner's veto of a tax hike and budget package.
Pritzker said a quick way to try to address gun crimes in Chicago was "violence interruption on the streets" and that funding for such services from the state should be available and dependable.
(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune