by Mick Dumke
And to help him deliver the message, he brought along New Jersey governor Chris Christie—the one whose office is the subject of a federal investigation.
"Our special guest is one of the greatest public servants in America today, and one of the greatest governors in the United States," said Rauner, the Republican candidate for Illinois governor, as he introduced Christie at a press conference Tuesday. "He's a role model for me and an inspiration for me and a friend of mine. He's a superstar and I'm honored to have him here with us."
Christie, a presidential hopeful who chairs the Republican Governors Association, said he was pleased to be back in Illinois, a state he called critical in the effort to fix the nation's fiscal problems.
It's also a state that's hundreds of miles from the bridge where his aides reportedly jammed traffic for days to retaliate against a political foe.
But this event was about Rauner's political foe, and Christie was glad to bash Quinn in the most affable way possible.
"The fact is that as governor, two of your most important tasks are to try to create an economic environment in your state where jobs can grow and flourish, and second, to try to protect the public safety of your state," Christie said. "Unfortunately for the people of Illinois, Governor Quinn has failed at both of those tasks."
The event was striking for more than Christie's appearance. It also marked the second straight day that Rauner had taken questions from reporters—unusual for a campaign that's often bypassed the media in favor of general announcements and millions of dollars' worth of attack ads, which Quinn has reciprocated.
On Monday Rauner appeared at MacArthur's, a famed soul food restaurant in the Austin neighborhood, to receive the endorsements of a couple dozen black clergy. "The African-American community in Illinois is suffering under Pat Quinn," he declared.
On Tuesday he and Christie held court after meeting with Hispanic clergy at a Humboldt Park church. "Hispanic families are suffering in Illinois," Rauner said.
But the message wasn't entirely the same—with Christie protecting his flank, Rauner picked up his attack on Quinn by blaming him for the recent shooting death of a nine-year-old boy.
"Pat Quinn has failed on violent crime," Rauner said. "He's created an environment where it can thrive. And then, through his ineptitude, he has released violent criminals early."
Yes, this is the point we're at in the campaign for governor.
It's true that one of the nine-year-old's alleged murderers was a teenager who'd been released from state prison and placed on home confinement. It's also true that electronic monitoring is used for thousands of parolees around the country, the vast majority of whom don't get into serious trouble—though there should certainly be an ongoing discussion about who should qualify, and how else to deal with the state's dangerously overcrowded prisons.
But Rauner wasn't engaged in that debate until the horrific shooting made headlines and his team tried to pin it on Quinn. It's one of many issues that's been ignored as the candidates spend their time walloping each other.
Ironically, just before Rauner's press conference, his friend Rahm Emanuel was downtown urging state legislators to lighten penalties for drug possession in return for getting tougher on gun offenders. The mayor didn't mention that Chicago police continue to arrest about 80 people a day for drugs, half for the misdemeanor possession of pot.
Quinn has said that he's OK with easing up on pot penalties, though he's been fine with letting others take the lead.
And Rauner was even less committal when asked about it at the press conference. "I'm open to the discussion," Rauner said. "But what we've got to focus on is the violent crime in our communities. We've got to prevent it, and Pat Quinn is failing on that issue."
Of course, Rauner has had some bad news of his own to deal with. From Monday's Tribune:
As Bruce Rauner enters the home stretch of his run for Illinois governor, 1,000 miles away in Tampa, Fla., a federal bankruptcy trial opens Monday to weigh allegations that the investment firm he ran participated in a fraudulent scheme to avoid liability for a string of deaths at nursing homes.
Rauner stuck to his script when reporters asked him about this again Tuesday, saying he wasn't directly involved with the nursing homes and that he didn't believe his old firm, GTCR, would be found culpable.
"My heart goes out to the families that were impacted by deaths in nursing homes," he said. "But this is a distraction from a failed governor."
Rauner noted that Quinn's administration is under investigation for its botched antiviolence program, the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
Christie, meanwhile, didn't get any tough questions and looked pretty happy about it. He said he would be back at least two times before the election. "I want the people of Illinois to understand what a great opportunity they have to have someone of Bruce Rauner's honesty, integrity, and competence offer himself for the governorship of Illinois."