Bruce Rauner campaigns at Lou Mitchell's restaurant in downtown Chicago on Monday morning. | Al Podgorski/ Sun-Times
The Republicans vying to become governor and U.S. senator spread out across the state Monday in an adrenaline-packed final push to draw out primary voters in what figures to be a low-turnout vote on Tuesday.
As the election entered its final hours, gubernatorial frontrunner Bruce Rauner visited a famous Loop diner, state Sen. Bill Brady shook hands with afternoon commuters downtown, and state Sen. Kirk Dillard traveled around Illinois with former Gov. Jim Edgar at his side, hoping that a union-orchestrated Democratic crossover effort would dislodge Rauner from his lead.
The day started Monday with a new tracking poll by We Ask America that showed Rauner at 44 percent among likely Republican voters, 17 points ahead of Dillard and more than double the 19 percent for Brady. Treasurer Dan Rutherford held last place with 9 percent.
Before those numbers were released, Rauner made a brief stop early Monday at Lou Mitchell’s in the West Loop — a traditional campaign stop. He shook hands with the breakfast crowd and urged them to vote Tuesday.
“Go Bruce!” said one diner, to which Rauner, wearing a St. Patrick’s Day pin, replied, “We’ll get ‘em.”
Rauner, who pulled up in his campaign bus, whipped through the restaurant — not stopping for breakfast or even dipping a hand into a basket full of Lou Mitchell’s famous donut holes. “
We’ve got to rip the corruption out of Springfield by bringing term limits to our state government,” Rauner said, standing next to his running mate, Evelyn Sanguinetti.
Later in the day, about one dozen union members not happy with Rauner protested his candidacy as he campaigned in Moline, holding up signs that read “Rauner i$ Anti-worker,” WQAD reported.
Dillard, meanwhile, made four stops around Illinois with Edgar, ending the day in Elmhurst.
Throughout the day, the Hinsdale Republican was getting plenty of help from public-sector unions that have backed him, including the 133,000-member Illinois Education Association. Cell phones and landlines across the state were ringing thanks to an aggressive, pro-Dillard phone-banking operation targeting both union members and Democrats willing to pull GOP ballots to vote against Rauner.
“We have been consistently telling our members that if they have a person that we’ve endorsed, they should vote for that person in their primary, whether it’s Republican or Democrat,” union president Cinda Klickna told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But many don’t have candidates that are going to lose on the Democratic side, so therefore, we’re asking them to cross over and vote in the Republican primary for Kirk Dillard.
“I believe there are people who actually go up until the last minute to make a decision, and I think with the information that’s out there with Kirk Dillard and his strong support for education, I think people will rally around him [Tuesday],” she said.
Brady, who had a five-stop fly-around with his family, made the Ogilvie Transportation Center his final stop of the day Monday, shaking hands with afternoon commuters and expressing hope that voters who had backed him in his 2010 gubernatorial bid would come out again in force and cause Rauner’s lead in the polls to crumble.
“We started in Bloomington, Peoria, Champaign, Springfield, and then on to Marion and flying back here. The enthusiasm, the excitement is really great for us. We really believe we’re going to bring this home just like we did four years ago. I know my opponents would say the polling data favors them. But we really believe it favors us,” Brady told reporters.
“What it really comes down to is turnout. We know our base will turn out,” he said.
Rutherford, the first-term treasurer whose candidacy has been crippled by a federal sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former male employee, hunkered down out of public view, issuing only a feeble, emailed statement in another sign his campaign is now operating only on fumes.
“I am a reasonable Republican,” the Chenoa Republican said in the statement in which he asked for Republicans’ votes. “We can do so much better. I want to make Illinois a proud state — one that people are happy to call home.”
In the U.S. Senate race, Doug Truax and state Sen. Jim Oberweis appeared together at a McLean County GOP luncheon in Downstate Bloomington Monday.
Truax has been hitting Oberweis for spending a week in Florida in advance of Tuesday’s primary. Truax has accused Oberweis of being “arrogant” during the campaign, by only attending one debate and dodging others.
During Monday’s luncheon, Oberweis dismissed Truax as “naïve,” while Truax painted Oberweis as a perennial loser, pointing to his five previous election losses for U.S. Senate, governor and congressman, the Bloomington Pantagraph reported.
Earlier in the day, Oberweis greeted commuters at the Geneva Metra station.
The weather Tuesday is forecast to reach nearly 50 degrees, but election officials throughout the state are forecasting a miniscule turnout.
The head of the Chicago Board of Elections was in the familiar position Monday of lamenting low voter turnout on the eve of this week’s primary election.
By Monday afternoon, 36,107 people had cast early votes in the city, compared with 45,013 votes cast at the same point in 2010, said Langdon Neal, chairman of the election board.
That’s a drop of about 22 percent. Election officials use the 2010 primary for comparison because it was an election with many of the same races and no presidential race.
“We have continual eroding in the number of people who participate and low turnouts in non-presidential years — and that is a big concern to us,” Neal said.
Meanwhile, in Cook County, 34,035 people had cast early votes in the current primary, compared with 34,829 early votes in 2010, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.