Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner visits his Chicago campaign headquarter, where volunteer spent the day calling voters and assembling yard signs, Saturday January 10, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak / Sun-Times
SPRINGFIELD — Private equity investor Bruce Rauner is maintaining a strong lead over his three Republican rivals for governor with state Sen. Kirk Dillard now positioned as the No. 2 contender, a new poll found Tuesday.
We Ask America, the polling arm of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, had Rauner with nearly 36 percent among those surveyed with Dillard, R-Hinsdale, at 17 percent.
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, registered 13 percent while state Treasurer Dan Rutherford trailed the pack with 7 percent.
Those findings came from an automated poll of 1,178 likely Republican voters taken on Tuesday night. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The results appear to show little impact from a union-driven ad campaign that has hit Rauner for his ownership of nursing homes in Florida, where elderly women died and whose estates sued Rauner’s one-time investment company for a combined $1.4 billion.
The polling also measures the precipitous fall by Rutherford, following a sex harassment lawsuit from a former treasurer employee, who also alleged that workers were forced to do political work — both allegations that Rutherford has denied.
Dillard’s surge into second place comes after he got the endorsement of the Illinois Education Association and Wednesday will announce backing from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, groups that carry a combined reach of as many as 60,000 current and retired teachers.
In Tuesday night’s survey, Rauner led in all demographic groups and geographic regions.