VA. AND N. J. DEMS WIN GOV SEATS, NOT GOOD NEWS FOR RAUNER

Chicago Sun-Times - - TAKE 2 - LYNN SWEET @ lynnsweet Email: lynnsweet@ sun­times. com

WASH­ING­TON — The ques­tion: After Democrats snared the gov­er­nor­ships in Vir­ginia and New Jersey and won down- ticket spots in those and other states, should Illi­nois Repub­li­cans now be more wor­ried about re- elect­ing Gov. Bruce Rauner?

The an­swer, as of Wed­nes­day: Yes.

The Tues­day vic­to­ries are the first for Democrats since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sur­pris­ing elec­tion a year ago.

Why should Rauner be wor­ried? The short story: 1. A lot of Democrats turned out in those states. The dif­fer­ent Demo­cratic fac­tions united. That in­cludes the new post- Trump In­di­vis­i­bles, which is a grow­ing move­ment in Illi­nois to old- school la­bor. If the big Demo­cratic Illi­nois pri­mary field for gover­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral jazzes up Democrats — and if they patch their pri­mary dif­fer­ences after March — that’s a po­tent po­lit­i­cal force.

2. A lot of sub­ur­ban women voted, and in Illi­nois these swing fe­male vot­ers are al­ways, al­ways cru­cial. Rauner sign­ing a con­tro­ver­sial abor­tion- re­lated bill may earn him a pri­mary — but that seems a risk he had to take in or­der to not alien­ate sub­ur­ban women.

3. Health care cov­er­age was an is­sue for vot­ers. Rauner has not stepped up to the chal­lenge of guar­an­tee­ing Illi­noisans that they will be bet­ter off un­der Trump­care — if it ever gets through Congress — than with Oba­macare, which Trump is try­ing to un­der­mine be­cause he can­not get it re­pealed, much less re­placed.

4. Rauner and his cam­paign are plac­ing a big bet that vot­ers in Illi­nois will focus less on Trump and more on Illi­nois House Speaker Mike Madi­gan, who dou­bles as the chair of the Illi­nois Demo­cratic Party.

“Some­thing is hap­pen­ing,” Demo­cratic Illi­nois gover­nor hope­ful Daniel Biss said in a fundrais­ing ap­peal pegged to the Vir­ginia and New Jersey Dem wins.

Democrats flipped New Jersey, re­plac­ing un­pop­u­lar GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who was term- limited, with Phil Mur­phy, a former Gold­man Sachs ex­ec­u­tive.

With Vir­ginia Demo­cratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe also term- limited, the seat stayed in Demo­cratic hands.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam will move up to gover­nor, best­ing former Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair Ed Gille­spie in a con­test seen in some ways as a ref­er­en­dum on Trump. Northam won by al­most 9 points.

The Tues­day elec­tion comes a year be­fore the Novem­ber 2018 midterms and closer to the March Illi­nois pri­mary — with the big­gest statewide races for gover­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Trump never cam­paigned with Gille­spie — he did a robo call. And though Trump in a Twit­ter post com­plained “Ed Gille­spie worked hard but did not em­brace me or what I stand for,” CNN exit polls for Vir­ginia sug­gest why the dis­tanc­ing.

About 57 per­cent of the Vir­ginia re­spon­dents said they dis­ap­prove of Trump, com­pared to 40 per­cent who did.

Rauner cam­paign spokesman Justin Gior­gio down­played the Tues­day Demo­cratic romp, while tak­ing aim at Madi­gan.

“Illi­nois is a state that has very dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics and re­al­i­ties than most states,” he said in an email. “There is no other state in the coun­try who has some­one as un­pop­u­lar as Mike Madi­gan, and that changes the dy­nam­ics here.”

CNN exit polls showed vot­ers cared about health in­sur­ance, and J. B. Pritzker cam­paign man­ager Anne Caprara said she found that “in­struc­tive” when it comes to the Illi­nois gover­nor’s con­test.

“Vot­ers are scared their health care cov­er­age is go­ing to be taken away,” said Caprara, who is pre­sid­ing over a cam­paign al­ready mak­ing an is­sue of Trump and health in­sur­ance.

Demo­cratic gover­nor hope­ful Chris Kennedy’s cam­paign said in an email that the Tues­day re­sults will trans­late like this in Illi­nois, that vot­ers are “tired of the Trump- Rauner agenda.”

Rauner has been walk­ing on a tightrope. Not em­brac­ing Trump. Not speak­ing out against him. Tues­day’s elec­tion makes that bal­ance harder to keep.

THE TUES­DAY VIC­TO­RIES ARE THE FIRST FOR DEMOCRATS SINCE PRES­I­DENT DON­ALD TRUMP’S SUR­PRIS­ING ELEC­TION A YEAR AGO.

Phil Mur­phy

Ralph Northam

Gov. Bruce Rauner ASH­LEE REZIN/ SUN- TIMES

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