Gov. Bruce Rauner appears to have abandoned any hope of salvaging support from Illinois conservatives during the course of his re-election bid.
The latest indication is that he has pulled out as keynote speaker of a event Wednesday in Chicago sponsored by the Cato Institute, the Washington-based think tank that supports free markets, limited government and individual liberties. U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes will take Rauner’s place at “Cato Institute Policy Perspectives 2017” being held at the Drake Hotel.
Rauner's office told the Cato Institute that the governor had another commitment downstate.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
Rauner did speak at the event in 2014, after he was elected governor by running in part as a fiscal conservative.
Lex Green, chair of the Libertarian Party of Illinois, told Prairie State Wire that the governor would not have been well received at the event.
“He hasn’t exactly embraced free market principles,” Green said. “It’s typical of what we’ve seen over the years in Illinois. Republicans talk a conservative game when the Democrats are in power but then fail to deliver on that agenda.”
Many conservatives cite the governor’s signing of HB40, the measure that covers the cost of abortions with public funds, in late September, in his not attending the event.
Justin Tucker, chair of the Libertarian Party of Chicago, said that Rauner’s signature on HB40 “was the last straw for many people.”
“He speaks a good free market game depending on the audience, but he hasn't shown to govern that way,” Tucker said. “I can't speak for why he really pulled out, but I would bet he wouldn't be a very popular person in that room.”
Earlier in October, a group of 20 anti-abortion groups from across Illinois signed a letter saying they had no confidence in Rauner.
David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said that many in the group were never enthusiastic about Rauner but gave him the benefit of the doubt, especially if he received legislation overturning Illinois’ parental notice law.
That changed with the signing of the abortion measure.
“We have no trust that he wouldn’t sign the (parental notice) bill if he received it,” Smith said in an earlier story.
The vanishing support among conservative Republicans presents a problem for Rauner in the upcoming Republican primary where he is being challenged by popular conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton). Ives has been outspoken in her criticism of Rauner’s signing of HB40 and what she calls the self-serving way business is done in Springfield.
The primary is March 20.