J.B. Pritzker, Bruce Rauner bring controversies to Illinois gubernatorial race


(Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS) , (Daily file photo by Colin Boyle)

Left: Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in August 2016. A recent NBC News/Marist Poll reported Rauner is trailing behind his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker by 17 points. Right: J.B. Pritzker speaks at an event. Since 2016, Pritzker spent more than $146.5 million on his campaign, nearly doubling Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner’s $84.8 million in expenses.

Evan Robinson-Johnson, Reporter

Just over two weeks remain until the midterm elections, and the Illinois gubernatorial race continues to draw controversy from both candidates.

According to a recent NBC News/Marist Poll, Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker is currently leading the race by 17 points against Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.

Rauner was first elected governor in 2014, breaking a long streak of Democratic governors in the state. He has advocated for giving local communities control over their own property taxes, rolling back regulations on businesses, implementing an equitable education funding formula and increasing public-private partnerships, like for infrastructure updates.

However, Rauner’s first term in office has been largely defined by a fierce political rivalry with state House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Under Rauner and Madigan, Illinois failed to pass a budget from 2015 to 2017. Legislators finally passed a budget in 2017 after being forced to override Rauner’s veto.

Rauner’s campaign suffered a drop in conservative support in part due to his support of abortion rights. He has also struggled with consistency: While arguing the need for tax breaks, Rauner’s new proposals call for a nearly $1 billion increase in income tax revenue across the state.

His public campaign appearances have also led to criticism. In late February, Rauner made an awkward onstage appearance where he drank chocolate milk to demonstrate his commitment to diversity.

“It’s really, really good,” Rauner said, after taking a sip. “Diversity!”

In an October poll, the Morning Consult found Rauner held a 62 percent disapproval rating, making him one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

Pritzker has been highly critical of Rauner during his campaign, blaming his opponent for many issues in the state. He has consistently accused Rauner of lying — both about his policies and about Pritzker’s proposals.

Pritzker, a businessman from Chicago, has promised to help low-income families by lowering local property taxes and instituting a graduated income tax, which would replace the existing flat tax of 4.95 percent. However, Pritzker has not elaborated on specific numbers for his new proposal.

Pritzker’s other policy proposals include a plan to expand access to affordable health care. In addition to the Affordable Care Act, Pritzker plans to create an option that would give Illinois residents the chance to buy low-cost health insurance.

Since 2016, Pritzker has spent more than $146.5 million on his campaign, nearly doubling Rauner’s $84.8 million in expenses. The majority of Pritzker’s spendings have gone toward digital marketing, and he has hired roughly a dozen people devoted solely to digital campaigning.

Rauner’s own marketing team has focused a majority of its efforts on negative coverage of Pritzker — especially following the discovery that he removed five toilets from his second mansion so it would be classified as “uninhabitable” in a property tax appeal, according to a report by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard.

This change lowered the 6,378-square-foot mansion’s assessed value from $6.3 million to about $1.1 million, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Pritzker, Rauner and two other candidates participated in a gubernatorial forum debate on Oct.18, clashing over issues of tax policy and personal claims. Both candidates have attempted to appeal to voters by arguing that they should be taxed more because of their higher income.

Libertarian candidate, Kash Jackson, was also at Thursday’s debate, where he argued for tax reforms that would allow Illinois residents living at or below the poverty line to waive all income tax.

“Governor Bruce Rauner, no offense sir, but you and Mr. J.B. Pritzker have no clue what it is for people like me to live in the conditions we live in,” Jackson said. “Where we have to struggle every day to pay our taxes.”

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