CHICAGO — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner kept up his drumbeat for Illinois term limits, saying Monday that "voters deserve a voice" on the issue and that the effort to put a measure on the November ballot isn't over despite recent court decisions and a tight timeline.
"We are not going to give up," Rauner said during a campaign event in Chicago.
The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Paul Vallas, criticized the Winnetka businessman for throwing his support behind the cause only when it became politically helpful.
Rauner, who's making his first bid for public office, has made limiting state legislators to eight years in office a major piece of his campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. He's chairman of a committee that gathered more than 500,000 signatures to put an initiative on the ballot, and has contributed $600,000 of his own money to the effort.
A lawyer for top Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit on behalf of business leaders to stop the question from appearing on the ballot, saying the measure didn't meet necessary constitutional requirements. In June, a Cook County judge agreed.
Supporters appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, which said last week it would not immediately take up the issue.
The committee is now turning to the state's appellate court. They're seeking an expedited appeal because the state board of elections, by law, must approve the Nov. 4 ballot by Aug. 22.
In addition to limiting lawmakers' terms, the measure would make it more difficult for the Legislature to override a governor's veto and change the sizes of the Illinois House and Senate.
Rauner has seized on the issue as part of his criticism of "career politicians" and business as usual in Springfield. But he also acknowledges it has huge appeal among Illinois voters, including the independent and Democratic voters Rauner will need to attract to defeat Quinn in the left-leaning state.
He said Monday that if the courts ultimately decide against the proposal and he is elected, he will push for it as governor and work to elect lawmakers who would support legislation to impose limit terms.
Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO, said Monday he and Quinn have long favored term limits, but that the proposal from Rauner's group was trying to do too many other things, such as increase the size of the Illinois House. That would undo Quinn's successful 1980 effort to decrease the number of state representatives.
"I just think he figures, 'I want to run for governor. I want to pick an issue that will galvanize support,'" Vallas said of Rauner. "And then he submits a proposal that is so convoluted, it almost invited judicial overturn."
Quinn led an effort to establish term limits when he was running for Illinois secretary of state in 1994. But his campaign also has called the Rauner initiative "a poorly-drafted, election-year proposal."
The term limits proposal was one of two that Cook County Judge Mary Mikva ruled could not be on the ballot. Supporters of the other initiative — which would have changed the once-a-decade process by which Illinois' political maps are drawn — opted not to appeal. They're planning to try again in an upcoming election.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.