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Second Opinion: Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Bruce?

Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 8:57 a.m. CDT

Bruce Rauner must be a scary guy.

Democratic-learning public employee unions were so frightened that they spent millions to try to deny him the Republican nomination for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn fears his fall re-election campaign so much that he has already bought his first ad for TV – it aired the night of the primary election.

Even legislative Republicans were so intimidated by Rauner that they circled the wagons when he came out shooting and shouting that he planned to “shake up Springfield.”

They all had the same horrific nightmare – that 4 days after this coming Halloween, Rauner will be elected governor of Illinois.

YOU CAN BET THAT Republicans who accused Rauner of trying to buy the nomination will have no problem with his equally generous use of his wealth to finance the fall campaign.

Referred to alternately as a multimillionaire and a billionaire, the venture capitalist from (around) Chicago has pumped $6 million of his own money into his campaign – so far.

His fortune 1) allowed him to outspend his three Republican opponents, 2) bought him almost non-stop TV exposure long before his foes could afford it, and 3) built a name recognition that went from nothing to nomination in a matter of months.

Money isn’t everything – but in politics, it’s a lot.

TOWARD THE ENDof the primary campaign, Rauner was able to aim attack ads specifically at state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who emerged as his primary challenger for the nomination.

State Sen. Bill Brady and Treasurer Dan Rutherford turned out not to be a factor – other than to sap anti-Rauner votes from Dillard.

But Rauner had a good story to tell – a political outsider with wealth so great that it would make him, he asserted, immune to special interests, and a stark contrast to the three political insiders who have been playing the same old game in Springfield for years.

And now, Quinn will be the sole focus of Rauner’s assault.

The unions will migrate back into the Democratic camp in their latest (last) front against the Rauner political machine.

Quinn must count on the tradition of this blue state to come through for him – again.

And the hotly contested Republican primary left Democrats with some good anti-Rauner sound bites.

Should be a good campaign.

RAUNER HAS AVOIDED the mistake that Brady made in 2010, when he narrowly lost to Quinn.

Brady had shored up his political base with the standard conservative social issues – anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. – that had little appeal with independent voters.

With a campaign platform focused almost solely on improving the Illinois economy and creating jobs, Rauner has escaped the familiar self-inflicted wounds that many Republican candidates suffer by embracing a social agenda that voters increasingly find to be unacceptable.

Quinn figures to resume a populist campaign approach that promotes an increase in the minimum wage and adoption of a graduated state income tax (like Iowa and Wisconsin), which Democrats see as a means of making the rich pay their fair share.

For all of his political liabilities, Quinn isn’t without some advantages in this campaign.

Should be fun to watch.

MAYBE YOU HEARD, we have a new sheriff in town.

Or we will have, in December. Two of them, in fact.

In Tuesday’s primary election, Republican voters in Lee and Ogle counties denied new terms for their chief law enforcement officers.

Although no Democrats filed for those offices, the party may fill the ballot vacancies before November. They did not do that in 2010, leaving the Republican nominees uncontested in the fall election.

Two-term Lee County Sheriff John Varga lost, it seems, because his practice of turf protection alienated other police and fire departments around the county.

And first-term Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn lacked a basic understanding of what it meant to be a public official, an affliction that overtakes too many elected office-holders.

In both cases, the incumbents had the strong backing of their county board members and a number of other elected officials.

But when you start counting votes, that’s not very many people.

Congratulations to Sheriff-elect John Simonton in Lee County and Sheriff-elect Brian VanVickle in Ogle County.

We trust, gentlemen, that you learned something from the men you defeated on Tuesday.

If not, the next election is only 4 years away.

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