P.E. Honcho Rauner Wins G.O.P. Nod In Illinois

Mar 19 2014 | 10:18am ET

Private-equity executive Bruce Rauner yesterday won the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois, earning the right to challenge incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in November.

Rauner narrowly defeated State Sen. Kirk Dillard for the nod, winning about 40% of the vote to Dillard’s 37.5%. While Illinois is an overwhelmingly Democratic state, Rauner is expected to put up a stiff challenge to Quinn, who has been governor since 2008, and may be the G.O.P.’s best chance to oust a sitting Democratic governor this year.

For one, Rauner can finance his own campaign, as he did in the primary, spending $6 million to win the nomination. In addition, Rauner’s focus is on Illinois’ battered economy, a message that could play in a liberal state during midterm elections. Rauner is also close to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat and President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff.

In his victory speech, Rauner called Quinn “a failure” who has “driven our unemployment rate through the roof.” He has pledged to “shake up” the state government.

Rauner was chairman of private-equity firm GTCR, where he worked for 30 years, until 2012. Since leaving the firm, he has launched a venture-capital business, R8 Capital Partners.

Rauner’s candidacy is likely to inflame Illinois’ public-sector unions. The American Federation of Teachers this month added GTCR to its watch list due to its ties to Rauner, which the teachers’ union says has called for “the elimination of defined-benefit plans.”

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