CHICAGO – The slate for the 2014 Republican primary for Illinois governor came into focus Tuesday as businessman Bruce Rauner announced Wheaton City Councilwoman Evelyn Sanguinetti as his lieutenant governor pick, making him the last of the four GOP candidates to name a running mate.
Sanguinetti, 42, is an attorney who served as an assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Jim Ryan before she joined the City Council in Wheaton, about 25 miles west of Chicago, in 2011. She spoke less about the issues Tuesday and more about her life story, which she said was an asset.
"I'm sure a 4-foot-11 Latina with an Italian last name and three small children is certainly not what the career politicians out in Springfield expected," she told reporters in downtown Chicago. "My journey has not been the usual journey. It certainly hasn't been typical, but I can tell you this: It's been very American."
The daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Ecuador was born in Florida and studied music at Florida International University. She works at a private downtown Chicago firm and teaches at The John Marshall Law School, where she earned a degree in 1998.
"She has the tenacity, the guts to take on the special interest groups in Springfield," Rauner said.
The venture capitalist from Winnetka is the only Republican candidate who has never held public office, something he's billed as a positive attribute. On the campaign trail, he's emphasized political reform and is chairman of a political action committee calling for term limits.
The other GOP candidates have already announced their running mates, each one saying the choice will help them appeal to female and minority voters — something Republicans have vowed to do since big Election Day losses.
Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa selected Northbrook attorney Steve Kim, a Korean-American. State Sen. Bill Brady chose former Long Grove Village President Maria Rodriguez, whose husband is part Cuban. And state Sen. Kirk Dillard chose state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy.
Sanguinetti detailed how she grew up poor and spoke Spanish before she did English. She sprinkled some Spanish phrases into her speech Tuesday.
She also talked about having multiple sclerosis, an illness that she said she manages with daily medication.
Sanguinetti believes marriage is between a man and a woman and is anti-abortion, a view she said she formed because her mother chose to have her at age 15 even though "it would have been a lot easier for her to go the other way."
It is the first time gubernatorial candidates will run with their lieutenant governor picks, a change prompted by the 2010 primary in which the past legal troubles of the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor were revealed.
However, there's also been talk over the years of doing away with the lieutenant governor's office since the duties are few. Historically, those serving in the role have come up with their own special projects.
"Rather than saying it's so amorphous that it does nothing, I say it's so amorphous that it's great to ... create a job duty plan," Sanguinetti said.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has yet to announce his running mate; Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is running for Illinois comptroller.
Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen .