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Unions still organizing plan for Illinois governor’s race

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Illinois union leaders are reportedly mulling several options about what to do in the governor’s race. But the only thing the leaders appear to agree on so far is that anti-union Republican gazillionaire Bruce Rauner cannot be allowed to win.

Some union honchos are looking at endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, for instance, already has strong support from the Operating Engineers, a union that is now even more opposed to Rauner since the candidate’s endorsement by the strongly anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors group. Other unions have also taken keen notice of that endorsement.

Surprisingly enough, Dillard also is being looked at by some public employee unions. They’re hoping that he’ll be a “no” vote on pension reform. Dillard would know what was going on behind the scenes with the pension reform conference committee because his running mate, Rep. Jil Tracy, sits on the committee.

However he chooses to explain it, a “no” vote on pension reform could bring him closer to a possible union nod.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford has tried to reach out to labor, particularly on the pension issue. He has attempted to steer away from taking a hard public line on pension reform, urging compromise. But Rutherford doesn’t have much history with the unions, so he’ll have to work very hard to woo labor leaders if he wants their support. Dillard speaks their language while Rutherford is more of an unknown quantity. Rutherford’s campaign has far more money on hand than Dillard’s, but nowhere near enough to compete with Rauner.

Still, does any candidate really want organized labor’s support in a Republican gubernatorial primary?

So, others in organized labor are strenuously arguing against any endorsement at all, believing today’s Republican Party voters are hostile to labor’s interests that overt support for a preferred union candidate would almost surely result in a political death sentence and result in a host of unknown, uncontrollable possibilities.

That particular faction is arguing hard for an all-out assault on Rauner during the primary. None of the other candidates would be nearly as hostile to labor’s interest as Rauner would be, goes the reasoning.

Rauner has enough of a personal fortune to stay on the air from now through next November without a break. His ads already are focused on painting Quinn as the bad guy, and that theme will only intensify if he wins the GOP primary.

He could bury Quinn before the governor has a chance to bury him.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

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