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Rauner touts support from Democrats, independents

DianMendley Rauner spoke about character her husbBruce Rauner his campaign become governor state Illinois press conference Chicago March 20 2013.

Diana Mendley Rauner spoke about the character of her husband, Bruce Rauner and his campaign to become governor of the state of Illinois at a press conference in Chicago on March 20, 2013. | Al Podgorski/Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: April 22, 2014 6:21AM

Republican Bruce Rauner moved to the middle of the political spectrum Thursday, parading out a line-up of nearly two dozen Democrats and independents to support his run for governor and to underscore a "new way" of political thinking embodied by his campaign.

Best known in the list is Newton Minow, an 88-year-old appointee by President John F. Kennedy to head the Federal Communications Commission. Also backing Rauner are the Rev. James Meeks, a former Democratic state senator from Chicago, and lawyer Manny Sanchez, a supporter of President Obama and one-time appointee and campaign fundraiser for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Rauner said the group’s backing of him represents “a new way of thinking” in approaching Springfield's problems, a philosophy in which Democratic and Republican ideologies are secondary to fixing the state's immense economic problems.

“We are here with leaders from all over Illinois, from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences in Illinois leadership, in Illinois life,” Rauner told reporters during a press conference at the Hotel Allegro downtown. “We want to bring everyone together in our state to address our biggest challenges and come up with new solutions.”

Rauner’s appearance included a brief speaking role for wife Diana, a Democrat who has kept a relatively low profile during the primary campaign and who was at the heart of the message Rauner’s campaign was trying to send Thursday.

“I believe that leadership is more important than ideology,” she said. “We need pragmatic leadership that is not beholden to anyone, and so for me, it’s not about Republican or Democrat. It’s now or never. We need a warrior to go to battle for our children and for the future of our state.”

In his testimonial for Rauner, Minow strode to the microphone and immediately invoked the memory of JFK, one of America’s immortal Democratic lions.

“President Kennedy once said party loyalty asks too much. I think this is one of those times. I’m a strong Democrat, but I’m taking a leave of absence form my party because Illinois is in desperate shape,” he said. “I think this not an ordinary election.

“I’ve been around a log time. I’m 88 years old. I’ve never in my lifetime seen a time where people are as disgusted with both parties, this bitter partisanship throughout our country and putting us all in great danger,” Minow continued. “I regard this as a decisive important election. That’s why I’m taking that leave of absence.”

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