Illinois’s public employee unions are bracing for a fight they’re not going to like: a race between two gubernatorial candidates bent on public pension reform. Worse still for the unions, the Democratic candidate, incumbent Governor Pat Quinn (D), is vulnerable, reports the New York Times. Republican candidate Bruce Rauner, a private equity millionaire, hopes to ride the red wave that has carried Mitch Daniels (R-IN), Scott Walker (R-WI), Rick Snyder (R-MI), and John Kasich (R-OH) to the helms of Midwestern battleground states. Can he do it?Illinois is in bad shape. The two governors before Quinn (a Republican and a Democrat) were both sent to federal prison on corruption charges. The state is a nation-wide leader in job losses. Its pension system is underfunded by about $100 billion. Its largest city Chicago, the current murder capital of the U.S., is incurring credit downgrades at the rate of a banana republic, while many of its schools are closing and its population is in rapid decline. In 2008 it looked like the new President of the United States would have the same affectionate connection with Illinois that Harry Truman had with Missouri or Ronald Reagan had with California; today, no one can remember the last time President Obama so much as mentioned his home state.This goes a long way toward explaining why the labor unions are so afraid of a Republican reformer in such an otherwise deep blue state:
In the primary election, some public sector union leaders took the unusual step of endorsing a different Republican candidate and urging voters — even Democrats — to vote against Mr. Rauner on the Republican ballot. Their chosen candidate, Kirk Dillard, a state senator, did better than polls had anticipated. On Wednesday, they said they would redouble their efforts to prevent Mr. Rauner’s election in November. “Labor will definitely be united against him,” said Daniel J. Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Another union leader added: “He’s clearly a man obsessed with destroying unions.”The decision that Illinois makes will say a lot about the current state of the blue model in America. Will Governor Quinn be compelled to flash his pro-labor bona fides by downplaying his leadership on pension reform? Will unions actively support Quinn, or just attack the Republican Rauner? Is Illinois ready to follow Wisconsin and Indiana into the post-union era? We’ll be watching.