SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Gov. Bruce Rauner has latched onto the longtime rivalry between Chicago and the rest of the state as he tries to negotiate with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both from Chicago, in the Illinois Legislature over the budget.
Last week Rauner visited several communities around the state to promote what he refers to as his "turnaround agenda." He criticized Madigan and Cullerton for driving the "Chicago machine," and questioned whether the state's Democratic legislators are less apt to serve their own voters over Chicago and the party leaders' political interests, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/1Qyjk4c ) reported.
"I'm here to... ask the legislators here in southern Illinois and around this state, 'Are you going to stay loyal to Madigan and the Chicago political machine or are you going to vote for your district, vote for the homeowners, taxpayers, schoolchildren, and their parents, working families?'" Rauner asked at a Marion motorcycle shop.
"Are you going to work for the families or are you going to stay loyal to Madigan and Cullerton and the Chicago machine that they control?" Rauner continued. "This is about the Chicago machine running the state versus the people."
During the appearances last week, Rauner and the Illinois Republican Party also singled out more than a dozen Democratic state senators and representatives, claiming they side with Democratic leaders over local voters.
Democratic Rep. John Bradley of Marion, one of the lawmakers who was targeted, countered by questioning Republicans' loyalty, arguing that they didn't vote to advance legislation designed to put in place the governor's proposed freeze on property taxes.
"The simple question to House Republicans is, 'Are you loyal to your political party, or are you going to vote for taxpayers and homeowners?'" Bradley asked.
Rep. Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg, another Democratic lawmaker who Rauner claimed was siding with party leaders, expressed frustration over the governor's initial budget-cutting plans, which include shutting down the Hardin County Work Camp, a major employer in southeastern Illinois.
"I just don't like the governor going around and saying he's going to close these facilities and shut down everything when that is so important and vital in my district. I thought him and I were getting along," Phelps said.
"I'm not going to fall for that 'Chicago political machine.' I'm pretty much independent," Phelps said. "I'm going to do what's right for my district. My district knows me. I'm walking it every day, working it every day, and I'm going to continue to do so and try to protect my district the best way I can. I'm not going to be bullied. I'm not going to be bullied."
As next year's election approaches, Phelps already is working to combat Rauner's efforts to encourage voters not to support Democrats, he said.
"He's got a lot of money. A lot of people know what he's going to do," Phelps said of the governor. "I've got the soldiers and boots on the ground that can go door to door. I can't compete with tens of millions of dollars against me, and everybody knows that. But no one is going to outwork me."
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com