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Endorsement: Illinois governor (R) – Rauner

Illinois has big problems.

Years of fiscal mismanagement and incompetent leadership have compromised the state’s economic future.

Illinois’ five public pension systems are underfunded by more than $100 billion.

The state ended 2013 with more than $7 billion in unpaid bills.

lllinois’ credit rating has been downgraded five times since 2011, meaning taxpayers must pay much more in interest when the state borrows money.

Moody’s Analytics predicted that Illinois will be dead last among all 50 U.S. states in job growth in 2014.

It’s clear that those running state government have failed and change is long past due.

On March 18, Republican primary voters have an opportunity to select the candidate they want to run against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November general election.

State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard are making a second run for the office. (Brady won the GOP nomination four years ago before losing a close election to Quinn.) Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford also is running, though his campaign has been rocked by sexual harassment charges leveled by a former staffer. Rounding out the field is businessman Bruce Rauner, whom we endorse.

Rauner is not a career politician. In fact, this is his first run for public office. He supports term limits and, if he is elected, pledges to serve only two terms.

He’s independently wealthy and will not be beholden to the special interest groups that have helped to corrupt Springfield. He will not be afraid to stand up to the powerful public employee unions that have resisted change. His wealth was not given to him. He earned it during a lifelong career as an investor and businessman.

Rauner is blunt when assessing the state’s many problems. Workers’ compensation is crushing businesses and an impediment to job growth. Despite a recent reform measure, public pensions are overly generous and unsustainable in the long term. The state’s tax system is unduly burdensome to both taxpayers and businesses and needs to be reformed.

Rauner knows big changes need to be made to get the state back on the right path.

Despite the many challenges – and the fact that whoever wins the governor’s seat more than likely will have to work with Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and a Democrat-controlled General Assembly – Rauner is confident he can get the job done.

He has a genuine love for Illinois and a desire to improve the quality of life here.

Rauner also knows his limitations. He admits that he himself doesn’t have all of the answers, but he promises to surround himself with the best and brightest and work as hard as necessary to succeed, just as he has in his professional life.

Rauner has the energy, the charisma and the financial backing to stand up to Quinn in the fall and win.

In the Republican primary for governor, we endorse Rauner.

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