- Richard A. Chapman / Sun-Times Media
- William Daley, a scion of Chicago’s greatest political dynasty, was tapped to serve on the transition team for governor-elect Bruce Rauner.
Early on in his campaign for governor, Republican Bruce Rauner ripped into a rival candidate he described as an example of the “career politicians” and “cronyism” that dominated Illinois politics.
“The same old political dynasties have literally had decades to address our economic decline, our pension disaster, and our failing schools. They haven’t done the job,” Rauner said in a written statement. “We need a clean break from the political machines that have been in charge for too long.”
The candidate Rauner was blasting was one William Daley, the Democratic son and brother of Chicago’s two longest-serving mayors and a former chief of staff to President Obama. When Daley dropped out of the race a short time later, Rauner issued another statement criticizing “machine politics” in Springfield.
But that was last year. On Thursday, in his first press conference since being elected governor, Rauner introduced that same Bill Daley as a member of his transition team.
“We are committed to assembling the most talented team of leaders that’s ever been assembled to turn around a state government anywhere in America,” Rauner said at a downtown hotel.
Daley, in turn, said he was “thrilled” to be asked to help. “The people have spoken. All of us—Democrats, Republicans, and independents—must move forward to support our new governor.”
Daley had moved forward sooner than most. After withdrawing from the race last year, he said he expected Rauner to beat Governor Pat Quinn, and he didn’t sound unhappy about it.
If you remember back to earlier this week, Rauner campaigned as an outsider—somebody nobody sent and nobody could buy. But in his three-decade career as an investor, Rauner forged close ties with powerful people inside and outside of government, including the Daleys and administrations in Springfield.
There are other familiar names on his transition team: former governor Jim Edgar; former congressman Glenn Poshard, the 1998 Democratic nominee for governor; Congressman Aaron Schock; Ron Huberman, who ran the Chicago Public Schools for a time under Mayor Richard M. Daley; clergy James Meeks, Willie Wilson, and Corey Brooks, three of Rauner’s most visible African-American supporters; and a number of corporate and investment firm executives representing the world from which Rauner came.
In his remarks to reporters, Rauner also repeatedly expressed his eagerness to work with the Democratic power players who control the General Assembly: house speaker Michael Madigan and senate leader John Cullerton.
The governor—any governor—needs to work with the legislative leaders. But during the campaign Rauner repeatedly railed against Madigan and Cullerton as corrupt insiders, calling them out as his real opponents in the race to save Illinois.
“Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan, and the Springfield crowd don’t care what you think,” Rauner said in one TV ad. “They’ll say or do anything to keep power.”
On Thursday, though, he said he left “a long voicemail” for Madigan on election night “about my excitement to work with him.”
For some reason, Madigan has not yet returned his call.
The speaker can afford to play it cool. He retains a veto-proof majority in the house and has shown an ability to let a series of governors come to him.
A few days ago Steve Brown, Madigan’s longtime spokesman, told me that the speaker was prepared to work with whoever was elected governor. “I think he would approach a Rauner administration professionally and discuss what his proposals are,” Brown said. “But as you know, there are zero specifics.”
On that point Rauner remains consistent. He dodged more questions Thursday about what his budget and tax plans actually are, except that he’ll look to Madigan and Cullerton for help.
“I’m going to work very closely with the General Assembly,” Rauner said.
He’s also still opposed to raising the minimum wage unless it’s part of “a comprehensive set of reforms” that increase the state’s “competitiveness.” That would mean things such as easing worker’s compensation requirements for businesses.
More than 60 percent of voters statewide backed a nonbinding ballot initiative calling for a hike in the minimum wage, and in conceding defeat yesterday, Quinn pledged that he would try to get it done during the upcoming the lame-duck legislative session—without any tradeoffs for business.
Rauner urged him not to. “That would not be appropriate,” he said.
As Rauner spoke, Daley and several other members of the transition team stood in carefully arranged rows behind him. None of them were allowed to take any questions.
“I’m working for every family,” Rauner said, “and on ending the system of corruption and cronyism and patronage that puts an undue tax burden on every family in Illinois.”
Thrilled as he was to be there, Daley hurried out the back door as soon as the event was over.