Illinois State Representative Jeanne Ives is a U.S. Army veteran who served her country overseas. Now, the third-term Republican has taken on her toughest challenge yet: running against incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Illinois primary March 20.
Rauner, a billionaire businessman and political neophyte, was elected in 2014 on promises of reform. But he failed to stop the state legislature from raising taxes and has done little to fix the state’s disastrous finances, which rival California’s for the worst in the nation. Rayner also angered conservatives by breaking his promise and signing a law expanding taxpayer funding for abortion, as well as a law declaring Illinois a “sanctuary state” that shields illegal aliens from deportation.
Disappointment with Rauner has made him a vulnerable target for Democrats hoping to win back the governor’s mansion in 2018. And it has also earned him a tenacious primary challenge from Ives.
Speaking to Breitbart News on Tuesday, Ives said of Rauner, “This is a governor who has betrayed everything that Republicans stand for. And there is a lot of animosity toward him because he has failed to get anything done. He’s just a weak man with no backbone. This is a man who has betrayed the party, who has lied to people about what he was going to do. People do not want to vote for Bruce Rauner: they want an alternative.”
Ives’s passion has yet to be reflected in the polls. A We Ask America survey showed Gov. Rauner with a comfortable 65% to 21% lead over Ives, who suffers from low name recognition. But Ives, who represents the traditionally conservative western suburbs of Chicago, was upbeat, telling Breitbart News: “I’m actually heartened by the early polling. The fact that anybody knows my name outside my district is pretty amazing.”
Despite low initial polling, Ives has been raising respectable amounts of cash from donors.
She explains: “Any time conservative voters know that there’s an opponent to Bruce Rauner, they’re motivated to come to the polls and work for me and vote for me. And that’s because my record is one of conservatism, and they are very upset at sanctuary policies, taxpayer funding of abortion, junk science on transgender issues, [and] bailing out Chicago schools with our school money.”
She also accuses Rauner of being soft on the corruption for which Illinois politics is famous, and notes that downstate voters are upset that “he won’t mention the president’s name and won’t work with him.” She says the governor will be a drag on the entire Republican ticket in November: “He can’t stand with our candidates in contested elections because they don’t want to stand with him.”
She also says he is too much like the current Democratic frontrunner, Chicago billionaire J. B. Pritzker, who has little political experience and is considered a steady ally of the party leadership.
Rauner blames some of the shortcomings of his administration on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the powerful Democrat who is often considered the state’s de facto leader. He claims he is running for re-election in the hope of gaining an advantage over Madigan: “I am not in charge. I’m trying to get to be in charge,” Rauner said last month.
Ives says Rauner is diminishing his own powers, and that he has failed to “go around Madigan” by building coalitions across party lines in the Democrat-dominated state legislature.
She says she has experience building those coalitions in Springfield. But she has also earned a reputation for being tough to her opponents. Asked to respond to that, Ives told Breitbart News: “They wouldn’t say that about a guy. They wouldn’t say that.” She adds: “I’m done being nice about some of our policy problems.”
Illinois can be turned around, she says, but it needs a change in leadership, and it needs time. “It will take the next four years to put us on a trajectory where we can be saved in the next ten years. And unless we have [economic] growth, we will have far more municipalities that cannot pay their bills.”
Rauner has refused thus far to debate Ives, a stance she calls “pathetic.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.