North by Northwestern

Each week, our politics writers will update this blog with their thoughts and opinions on the latest news about the 2014 Midterm Elections.

Rauner projected gubernatorial victor, Quinn tells supporters to keep hope

By Clayton Gentry Nov. 5, 2014 N

2014 Illinois Governor: Rauner vs. Quinn

Bruce Rauner (Rep)

Pat Quinn (Dem)

Data compiled on Sept. 30, 2014 from 18 polls by Pollster.

Almost as many journalists as members of the public crammed themselves into the Walnut Ballroom at the Hotel Allegro, Gov. Pat Quinn’s election headquarters, to watch the poll numbers come back Tuesday night. Early in the evening, while Quinn held a lead over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, audience members roared every time the percentages popped up on the WGN screen.

“The main thing is that he’s smart and he has a heart,” Quinn supporter Anna Hanson said. “I think he’s gonna win.”

But the cheers and the optimism subsided as the race tightened, even more so as Rauner took the lead. Close to 10 p.m., with about 85 percent of the vote reported, Rauner had a four-point lead, and the cheering had entirely given way to a general rumble. At about 10:15, Andrea Mitchell with NBC News projected that Rauner would unseat the incumbent Quinn. By 11, most networks were projecting the same, as grim-faced Quinn supporters watched coverage of an incipient celebration at Rauner’s HQ.

Quinn took the stage around 11:15, and his two-and-a-half-minute speech attempted to revive the excitement that had faded from the room over the course of the evening.

“The prudent thing to do is to thank all the people who voted today,” Quinn said. “They exercised their fundamental right to participate in our democracy. And they’re entitled to make sure that the election authorities in every city and county, including Chicago and Cook County, count their votes.”

He recalled his victory in the 2010 gubernatorial election, when he said ballots were still being counted the Friday after election night.

“They’re going to be counting tomorrow, the next day and probably the next day,” Quinn said. “Until then, I don’t think we should make any judgment on the results of this election.”

And he concluded with one final resonant call to to his staff and supporters not to lose hope too soon.

“The cause is making sure that everyday people get a fair share,” he said. “We are the government of the many, but we do have to take out the government of the money. And we will never ever yield…until all the votes are in.”

Even so, several people at the hotel refused to comment on the night out of frustration, and those who did hadn’t much hope to offer.

“I'm sad,” said Sharen Hawkins, who works for Ford Motor Company. “I’m very sad for the people, for the minimum wage, of course, the gun law, medical [marijuana]. We’ve got a lot of problems that we’re going to have to work through.”

But as the crowd filtered out of the ballroom, some, like Victor Herrera, a support staff member for the Chicago Public School District, reserved a speck of optimism for the days ahead.

“It still looks like Governor Quinn is not gonna pull it off,” Herrera said. “But one of the last things you want to lose, whether it’s in politics, in love, relationships, or anything, is hope. You lose hope, you lose everything else. Yes, the networks are calling it, but at the end of the day it’s not the networks who decide. It’s the voters.”

Gubernatorial candidates spend big money on campaigns

By Jacob Meschke Nov. 3, 2014 N

2014 Illinois Governor: Rauner vs. Quinn

Bruce Rauner (Rep)

Pat Quinn (Dem)

Data compiled on Sept. 30, 2014 from 18 polls by Pollster.

This year’s race for Illinois governor is the most expensive in history. Both candidates have pushed spending to previously unseen levels, breaking spending records in the state.

Total amounts have the potential to top $100 million. By Oct. 29, Republican Bruce Rauner had spent $63.75 million and current Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn had spent $29.3 million.

Rauner has been mostly funded by business groups, such as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and his own personal fortune. He has contributed tens of millions of his own money to his campaign. According to Reboot Illinois, a non-partisan group, Rauner is valued at around $500 million.

Quinn has been able to keep pace in spending levels for two reasons. First, he did not have to campaign in the primary, unlike Rauner, who had to fend off several challengers and spend a significant amount before he started campaigning for the general election. Second, Quinn has received immense support and funds from unions across Chicago and the state.

Political analysts tend to say that the large sums poured into the campaign favor Rauner. Having never run for office, the republican candidate used a lot of resources to increase name recognition, unlike Quinn.

Much of the spending has gone to a lengthy list of campaign ads that have plagued media outlets for weeks now. Money has been a huge crux of the campaign for both sides. In the numerous attack ads by both candidates they are accused of misuse of money, both personally and professionally.

Quinn has highlighted Rauner’s personal wealth, citing his “nine luxury homes worth millions of dollars” and other extravagance in ads like this. Rauner has hit back in fashion, highlighting Quinn’s personal spending while in office.

“Pat Quinn lives in Chicago and flies to Springfield in a private plane that costs taxpayers hundreds of dollars a year,” one ad says.

Public spending has also been an issue. Rauner has exposed policies by the Quinn administration that have included tax increases, despite issues with funding the statewide pension program. Quinn has returned the favor by publicizing business practices by companies Rauner owns that have come under scrutiny in the past.

The high cost of this gubernatorial election reflect the high stakes of the race. In a traditionally blue state that has a recent history of dire economic circumstances under a Democratic governor, the choice is difficult, and polls have been continually inconclusive. Tuesday brings an end to the spending, and will reveal once and for all who the voters prefer.

Northwestern alums campaign for reelection near and far

By Ben Zimmerman Oct. 16, 2014

2014 Illinois Governor: Rauner vs. Quinn

Bruce Rauner (Rep)

Pat Quinn (Dem)

Data compiled on Sept. 30, 2014 from 18 polls by Pollster.

Update: This story has been updated to include an interview with South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard hosted since this story's original publication.

President Barack Obama’s speech at Northwestern University two weeks ago fueled interest in politics a month before the midterm elections. But some Northwestern alums have been involved in this upcoming election beyond just watching stump speeches or protesting for divestment. Three Northwestern grads in particular have worked for months, or even years, by running for office themselves.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)

North of Evanston, in Illinois’s 10th congressional district, is Rep. Brad Schneider, who is running for reelection in a razor-thin race. Schneider won his seat in 2012 by margin of roughly 3,000 votes, and this year’s election could be just as close.

Schneider earned a degree in industrial engineering from NU in 1983, according to his campaign website, and then returned to receive an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 1988. He worked as a businessman and consultant before being elected to the House of Representatives.

Schneider enjoyed his time at Northwestern, notably being part of the “Big Ten experience” and meeting his wife on campus, he said. He served as a representative for ASG and was a resident advisor.

“The experience of organizing a community of people living together, many for the first time away from their parents' home, was transformative,” Schneider said.

He also said that his time at NU inspired his interest in finding solutions to complex problems, which he worked on with jobs in engineering and consulting, and ultimately, in Congress.

“Throughout my career, working with large and small companies alike,” Schneider said, “it was the opportunity to tackle a diversity of problems that I most appreciated."

Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL)

Gov. Pat Quinn attended Northwestern Law School after graduating from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He earned his JD in 1980, but began his political career while still in law school. Quinn, a Democrat, formed a grassroots group called the “Coalition for Political Honesty” where he organized petition drives, successfully reducing the size of the Illinois legislature.

Quinn worked his way up the political ladder of Illinois, before being named the running mate of Rod Blagojevich in the 2002 election, and taking over as Governor after Blagojevich resigned amidst a corruption scandal. Quinn narrowly won reelection in 2010, and is currently in a dead heat race for next month’s midterm, according to polls. He is squaring off against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R-SD)

Outside of Illinois’s borders, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is running as the Republican party’s incumbent next month. After growing up as a self-described “farm boy,” Daugaard paid his way through NU’s law school with various odd jobs, including bus driver and security guard.

“South Dakota is not very diverse, culturally or racially, so I really had a pretty cloistered life until moving to Chicago,” Daugaard said. “It was a much wider world there then.”

After graduating in 1978, he briefly worked as an attorney in Chicago before moving back home and getting involved with a non-profit organization called the Children's Home Society of South Dakota.

He was eventually elected a state senator, before becoming the lieutenant governor under former Gov. Mike Rounds, who is now in a highly contested senate race. After Rounds served the maximum two terms, Daugaard stepped up and was elected as the governor in 2010. He is running for reelection against Democratic State Rep. Susan Wismer, and is safely ahead in the polls.

Rounds is now a senator and currently in a race against two challengers that has national implications and has attracted major media attention. The Colbert Report even impersonated Daugaard on the comedy-news show, in a segment on the consequential senate race.

Daugaard said the newfound attention on the politics of a small, rural state is surprising, but he appreciates being a lesser known name.

“For the most part, people who watch that show won’t remember my name,” Daugaard said. “We’re a small state, and that’s alright with me.”

Northwestern political clubs prepare for midterm elections

By Clayton Gentry Oct. 16, 2014 N

2014 Illinois Governor: Rauner vs. Quinn

Bruce Rauner (Rep)

Pat Quinn (Dem)

Data compiled on Sept. 30, 2014 from 18 polls by Pollster.

With midterm elections on the horizon, members of Northwestern’s Young Democrats and College Republicans are preparing for the final push in their respectively favored candidates’ campaign efforts.

“We’ve been putting our members in touch with multiple local campaigns,” said Weinberg sophomore Will Pritzker, secretary of community outreach for College Republicans. “We’ve also provided opportunities for people to make phone calls. And we sent out information on how to be a Republican election judge because currently there’s a shortage of Republican election judges in Cook County.”

Weinberg junior and College Democrats president Quentin Heilbroner said the College Democrats are heading up to Illinois 10th district this weekend, which includes parts of Lake and Cook Counties, to canvas for the incumbent Rep. Brad Schneider in his race against Republican opponent Robert Dold.

“We’re taking the Metra up to Waukegan this Saturday,” Helibroner said. “I believe, at the moment, we’re talking mostly to supporters. We’re not trying to convince anybody at this stage. We’re making sure they know how to vote, where to vote, and just to make sure that they are guaranteed to vote.”

Additionally, both clubs are contributing efforts toward the gubernatorial race between Bruce Rauner and Gov. Pat Quinn.

“We have people that are helping out with the Bruce Rauner campaign,” Pritzker said. “I think the Democrats would agree that that’s probably the biggest local race right now, along with Dold—Schneider.”

Having met only twice so far this year, College Democrats hosted its first phone bank on Tuesday night, which Helibroner said the club has planned for every Tuesday until the race, though that scheduling may change to account for club members’ weeknight conflicts.

“We’re basically getting a lot of serious Northwestern democrats together to make phone calls for mostly Governor Quinn, also possibly Jan Schakowsky and Brad Schneider,” he said. “Right now we’re just trying to see how many calls we can get out and test our ability for the pre-election run-up.”

Pritzker echoed that sentiment – both clubs have their eyes set on the last few days before election, still a couple of weeks away.

“At this point it’s about getting people on the street, knocking on doors,” Pritzker said. “We’re going to be reiterating that at our meetings and contacting people we know are interested. The last five to ten days is when you’re really gonna see people getting active. I’m optimistic it’ll turn out well.”

Senators tell Northwestern students loan reform matters

By Gordon Schlicht Oct. 13, 2014

2014 Illinois Senate: Oberweis vs. Durbin

Dick Durbin (Dem)

Jim Oberweis (Rep)

Data compiled on Sept. 29, 2014 from 9 polls by Pollster.

About 40 students and staff from Northwestern and other Chicago area universities assembled Saturday afternoon in the Harold Washington Library to hear U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at a campaign rally take on the issue of unreasonably high student loans and cost of education.

Ill. state Sen. Mike Frerichs opened the event by recounting his own transition from first-generation college student from a low-income family to state senator and state treasurer candidate this November. By relating his personal financial struggles to those of current students, he reiterated the urgency of a student loan reform act several times.

“We must tackle this issue, before it tackles us,” he said.

The audience cheered the next speech, by Sen. Durbin, which included proposed plans for lowering tuition costs and loan refinancing.

“It’s an issue that’s been very troubling to me,” Durbin said.

Warren, who is currently on a campaign tour supporting a number of Democratic candidates, followed by giving examples of how the federal government offered generous benefits and tax breaks to deal with student loans in the past. Rising tuition costs and interest rates on tuition loans are costing many young people the opportunity for a bright education, she said.

“We are not investing in your generation like we used to,” Warren said. “I think the central question in this country today is, ‘Who does Washington work for?’”

Warren fiercely attacked congressional spending on unnecessary sectors and the fact that the federal government is limiting resources spent on making higher education more financially accessible.

While both Durbin and Warren are leading the charge against government profit off federal loans, they also suggested students start their own tuition reform movements. The Democratic senators urged students to assemble their own online movement by spreading information about the agenda of Republicans who oppose tuition and loan cuts for the lower and middle classes, as well as by assembling groups to fight for students’ demands.

“This election is about you, and it will be decided by you,” Warren said.

Gubernatorial preview: Quinn and Rauner on the Issues

By Ashley Wood Oct. 2, 2014

2014 Illinois Governor: Rauner vs. Quinn

Bruce Rauner (Rep)

Pat Quinn (Dem)

Data compiled on Sept. 30, 2014 from 18 polls by Pollster.

President Obama spoke at Northwestern today about the economy. But since the other reason the President and the First Lady came to the Windy City was to help Gov. Pat Quinn campaign, we wanted to provide some background on the issues in the gubernatorial race. Here's an overview of Quinn's political purview and that of his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner.

Public finances in Illinois dominate the issues debate for the state’s November 4th gubernatorial election, where Gov. Quinn and his opponent Rauner have also come under fire for their records in governance and business, respectively.

Forty-one percent of likely voters would choose Quinn, 44% chose Rauner and 6% chose Libertarian Chad Grimm, according to a September 18-19 poll by We Ask America. Keep in mind the poll's ± three percent margin of error, putting the frontrunners in a close, competitive race.

As The Economist points out, Rauner’s power would be limited even in a victory because of Democratic “super-majorities” in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.

Rauner’s wealth has stuck him in a Romney-like situation where he must prove he can connect with constituents and work with a deep blue state, while Quinn is trying to pull votes amid Illinois’ voters dissatisfaction with the state of Illinois.

In an apparent response, Rauner has coupled the release of information on his wealth (earning over 100 million in the last three years) with unsubtle campaign advertisements in which the venture capitalist touts the value of his $18 watch and a 20-year-old old van he drives. A Quinn ad takes the image of Rauner in the van and attempts to undermine any “regular guy” image.

“Bruce’s first job was flipping burgers, his second job was parking cars,” reads Rauner's web biography, which describes him as a “self-made businessman” to throw a more humble narrative behind the image of private equity firm GTCR LLC – Rauner is the ‘R” – and his business career. Quinn’s career has consisted primarily of public positions in Illinois.

A trial over a nursing home chain formerly managed by GTCR, where the firm allegedly “participated in a fraudulent scheme to avoid liability for a string of deaths at nursing homes run by Trans Healthcare” has recently put pressure on Rauner. On the other hand, an alleged patronage scandal in the Illinois Department of Transportation, where the state inspector general “revealed that allegedly clout-fueled hiring increased under the Quinn administration” has complicated the campaign for Quinn.

Portraying himself as a political outside in support of term limits, Rauner groups Quinn with long-time Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan, who Chicago Magazine called “The King of Illinois.”

Economy and Fiscal

Quinn supports raising the minimum wage to $10 over the next two years, a decision up for referendum on November 4th. In one Quinn ad, a quote of Rauner stating he is “adamantly against raising the minimum wage” plays several times. Rauner expands on what he calls an “oversimplification” of his position in a Chicago Tribune editorial, explaining he would support a national minimum wage or an increase in Illinois coupled with “creative solutions” for businesses.

Rauner pledges to get rid of income and corporate tax hikes under Quinn and freeze Illinois’ property taxes – the second-highest rates in the nation – but has not explained how he would control local property taxes.

Quinn touts his increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, reduction in state spending and pension reform – a reform Rauner says did not go far enough and received criticism from unions. But unions are more worried about Rauner: The president of the AFL-CIO in Illinois called Rauner “a clear and present danger” as governor.


Both candidates are pro-choice. Same-sex marriage and medical marijuana have become legal in Illinois under Quinn. After Quinn approved same-sex marriage, which he calls one of his proudest accomplishments as governorRauner said he would have vetoed the bill because he believed voters should decide by referendum.

“Bruce doesn’t have a social agenda,” said his wife Diana, a Democrat, in a campaign ad. During LGBTQ pride month this year, Rauner said, “Now it's passed, it's the law, I don't have any agenda to change it and the only way I'd change it is if it were done in a referendum – the voters said that they'd want to change it.”

Northwestern voters can read more on Quinn’s issue positions here and Rauner's here.