BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County Republican chairwoman Barbara Viviano claims only incumbent Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner can defeat Democrat contender J.B. Pritzker this November and that Rauner’s Republican challenger Jeanne Ives is unelectable.
“What’s the point of supporting Ives when the end result would be J.B. Pritzker and Mike Madigan teaming up to drive our state further into the ditch after they win in November,” Viviano told The Madison - St. Clair Record.
Madigan, a Democrat and speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, is a political ally of Chicago-based businessman J.B. Pritzker and the longest serving state leader in U.S. history.
Ives, a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives for the 42nd district, which includes West Chicago and Wheaton, is challenging Rauner in the primary for the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial election.
Her campaign rejects the notion that she can't defeat Rauner, citing recent polling that shows the sitting governor is even more unpopular among Republicans in the state than President Trump.
"Obviously, the idea that Rauner is the only one who can win in a general is completely untrue," said an Ives campaign spokesperson. "Rauner's approval rating is at 26 percent. Eighty-five percent of Illinoisans think we are on the wrong path. A majority of Illinoisans want him gone. He is unelectable.
"And as they learn of his betrayals, Rauner's support among GOP voters is cratering."
Rauner has served as the state’s governor since January 2015.
The race between the two GOP contenders turned ugly last week after a television advertisement run by Ives attacked Rauner’s record in office accusing the incumbent of being soft on gender identity, immigration and abortion. The controversial ad features a male actor in dress portraying a transgender woman thanking the governor for signing legislation that lets him use the girl’s bathroom.
Another actor thanked Rauner for making Illinois residents pay for abortions.
The ad generated a storm of criticism from Republicans as well as the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois Chapter, the LGTBQ civil rights group and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.
GOP State Chair Tim Schneider told CNN there was no place in the Illinois Republican Party for attacks on Illinoisans based on race, gender or humanity.
Ives has defended the television spot, saying it wasn’t a personal attack on Rauner but simply an attempt to raise awareness of issues with Republican primary voters.
Viviano said the ad shows how unelectable Ives really is.
“The St. Clair County Republican Central Committee has a history of not endorsing contested primaries and that is the position we are taking this time,” she said. “However I can voice who I think is the best candidate, and I believe that is Gov. Bruce Rauner. I want to make sure Mike Madigan’s best friend J.B. Pritzker doesn’t become governor.”
Viviano added she would like to see nine Democrats in the Illinois House defeated and Republican representation after the creation of new legislative districts in Illinois set for the year 2020.