CRYSTAL LAKE – Two of the four Republican candidates for governor each took the stump Saturday to pitch their political credentials to Crystal Lake area constituents hungry for a Republican return to the Governor's Mansion.
On one hand, Bruce Rauner, a wealthy businessman who has already built up a formidable war chest, pledged to take on special-interest groups and public-union bosses who he said have bought both Democratic and Republican officials in Springfield responsible for bankrupting the state.
Rauner, a first-time candidate who resides in the affluent North Shore village of Winnetka, also touted his conservative upbringing of "hunting, fishing, Harley riding" and his pride of being a gun owner.
He told the roughly 100 Republican Party faithful from Nunda Township gathered at a picnic shelter inside Veteran Acres Park that if elected, he would model his pro-business policies off other conservative Midwestern governors such as Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker and Rick Snyder.
"We need an independent, tough leader who is going to take on the special-interest groups. We do it in business all the time," Rauner said. "We negotiate tough contracts. We cut costs. We make budgets ... I've been doing that for 30 years in Illinois. I want to bring that track record of success and apply it to Springfield."
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford reminded the Nunda audience that he is the only one of the four Republicans running for governor to win statewide office. The downstate Republican, who spent nearly two decades as a state lawmaker, did so in a race for treasurer in 2010.
Rutherford stressed that he captured slightly more than 20 percent of the vote in the Democratic stronghold of Chicago, a required threshold for any Republican candidate to win statewide office.
"When it's all said and done, I'm convinced I'll be the party's standard-bearer," Rutherford said. "When you look at all the statistics, I am the one guy who can win it."
Fellow GOP candidates Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady also were expected to attend the event, but they canceled because of scheduling conflicts. But the Nunda Township Republican Central Committee had other prominent state Republican leaders and local representatives on hand for its annual family picnic.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, who recently announced a run for state treasurer, and new Illinois Republican Chairman Jack Dorgan rallied for a Republican takeover from House Speaker Michael Madigan and the powerful control of his Democratic Party. The state hasn't seen a Republican governor since former Gov. George Ryan left tangled in a corruption scandal in 2002.
The up-close access to party leaders was something Mark Daniel wanted when he planned the event. Daniel, the chairman of the township's Republicans, contacted the candidates and leaders directly so that constituents could meet them personally.
"It is a testament to our township for what we do to help these various politicians," Daniel said. "They really absorb all of this."