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Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker are our choices in the Illinois gubernatorial primary

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Friday, March 9, 2018  |  Editorial  |  By the Editorial Board

Candidates--Statewide (12) , Governor (44) Ives, Jeanne--State House, 42
Illinois voters head to the primary polls March 20 to set the lineup for the November gubernatorial election. It will be voters’ first opportunity to register their frustrations after a bruising two-year budget impasse that pitted Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner against formidable Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Rauner, 61, has had a rocky four years in office. He’s made too many compromises for some conservative voters but attracted moderates by tempering his hardcore message on social issues. Rauner has remained steadfast on traditional Republican themes of strengthening Illinois’ business climate and weakening public unions. He is Republican voters’ best choice in the primary.

On the Democratic side, J.B. Pritzker offers the best chance for his party to recapture the governor’s office.

To his credit, Rauner has resisted pressure from far-right Republicans on gay and transgender issues, undocumented immigrants and abortion. He contributed $221 million to the $9.8 billion Chicago teachers’ pension fund and signed a bill authorizing a much-needed overhaul of public school funding.

Rauner also signed a bill aimed at making Illinois a leader in clean-energy jobs in such fields as solar and wind power. He’s not afraid to rile conservatives, having expanded abortion coverage under state insurance plans and limited the role of local authorities in enforcing federal immigration laws.

His defiance of conservatives helped prompt a hostile right-wing challenge by state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton. Ives, a West Point graduate, has exhibited stunning harshness with an anti-immigrant, racist, sexist and transphobic campaign ad. Ives has rejected calls to halt the ad or apologize.

Rauner previously used a campaign ad featuring Gov. Eric Greitens but canceled it after Greitens acknowledged having an extramarital affair.

Pritzker, 53, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is among six Democrats in the primary. His wealth is estimated in the billions, while Rauner’s has been pegged in the hundreds of millions. Pritzker is self-funding his campaign, having contributed $56 million so far. Rauner gave his campaign $50 million two years ago and has picked up significant contributions, including $20 million last year from hedge fund founder Ken Griffin.

No other Democrat, including Chris Kennedy, chairman of an investment firm and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, can compete financially. State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, a former University of Chicago mathematics professor, deserves respect for his remarkable understanding of fiscal matters and public policy.

Rauner’s campaign already is attacking Pritzker with ads featuring FBI wiretap recordings of phone conversations Pritzker had nearly 10 years ago trying to make appointment deals for himself with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He has apologized.

Pritzker has been a leader in building Chicago’s vibrant tech industry and expanding child care services and early-childhood education. He supports a progressive income tax, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.

The challenge for Illinois voters will be forgetting the worst parts of these two candidates’ pasts to focus on the state’s promising future.