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Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 04:38 pm

Why Rauner won’t get my vote

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PHOTO COURTESY WWW.BRUCERAUNER.COM

If you like Bruce Rauner, you won’t like this column. If you don’t like Bruce Rauner, you don’t need this column. But if you still haven’t heard of him, this piece is for you.

Rauner is a rich guy from the North Shore. Or the Gold Coast in Chicago. Actually he owns expensive digs in both places, but it’s a little hard to tell where he actually lives. The paperwork varies depending on what seems convenient for taxes, or getting his daughter into an exclusive public school.

He is running for governor. But I don’t want him to get elected. Not because he apparently lied about his place of residence, or because of his policies, or because he is rich. Or even because he earned all those bucks the Mitt Romney way, by being a venture capitalist. Not even because he is a bad guy.

Actually, Rauner seems pleasant. In person he is well-spoken, intelligent and interesting. When I first met him, I sorta liked him. Then I started finding out more about him.

I don’t want him to be governor because he hasn’t paid his dues. I don’t mean AFSCME dues like I pay, or Teamster dues like I once paid. I mean the dues you pay by working in precincts on campaigns, putting up yard signs, knocking on doors, running for elective office. Meeting people face-to-face and asking for their vote. Rauner hasn’t done that. He seems to think he can get elected primarily by spending money.

He has what I call the typical venture capitalist approach – take over a troubled organization, tear it apart, don’t worry about the welfare of the employees or those the organization serves. Then sell it off, or close it down and move on.

The election is a year and a half away and already Rauner is spending lots of money on the campaign. Slick radio and TV ads are running now. And he is letting it be known that unions and public employees and their pensions are, in his view, most of the problem in Illinois. He has already spent more on the ads than I will get in pension payments this year after 20 years of working in government.

My work in government and my campaigning for and holding public office taught me many things that are unknown by most who haven’t paid their dues by being involved.

I remember my first run for the Lincoln Land Community College board. I put up yard signs all over several counties, met the editors of all the papers, sent out mailings and spent time in many small towns shaking hands. In those days few people had even heard of the college. Fewer still knew it was run by an elected board. And no one had heard of me.

But in a grubby little bar in Ashland, I walked up to a disheveled, grizzled guy, shook his hand and asked for his vote. And learned more than any political science class ever taught me.

“How do you feel about the semester system?” the man asked. Totally unexpected. (At the time, Lincoln Land was considering changing from a quarterly calendar to semesters.)

What followed was a long conversation about academic calendars and how the change would benefit his work schedule and his ability to get the degree in agriculture that his future job depended on.

Right there I understood that what government does affects people’s lives in big ways.

In fact, what I praise is experience. As a candidate, as an officeholder, as someone doing the day-to-day work of government, one builds experience. You learn that many different people have many different ideas. That you need to listen. You need to understand. You need to compromise.

You learn that there are few easy answers, no quick answers. And sometimes there aren’t right answers, just better ones.

I started in government as a janitor. I ended my public service career as an agency head. My time included union jobs and management positions. And in all those spots I worked with people who cared about their work, who used their experience and expertise for the benefit of the people government serves, and who made sacrifices so that the common good prevailed. (In that time, I worked with a few lazy bums and crooks as well.) But the vast majority of my fellow workers were good, honest, caring individuals.

I don’t think Bruce Rauner has the understanding that one gets in the trenches. And that is why the candidate I vote for in the primary is going to be someone who has run for office and served in government.

Phil Bradley has been a precinct committeeman, a member of the Lincoln Land Community College board, the Sangamon County board, and the Capital Township board. He has held several jobs in the executive branch of state government.

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