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Investor Bruce Rauner weighs Republican bid for Illinois governor

Bruce V. Rauner GTCR private equity firm Chicago

Bruce V. Rauner of GTCR, a private equity firm in Chicago

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM

Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist who helped make Mayor Rahm Emanuel a millionaire, is edging toward a run for governor of Illinois as a Republican, prominent Illinois Republicans tell the Sun-Times.

Rauner, 55, is senior principal and chairman of Chicago-based GTCR Golder Rauner LLC, a Chicago-based private equity firm.

He recently garnered attention as a prime mover of the education reform legislation that passed Springfield, smashing teachers’ right to strike and paving the way for longer school days in Chicago.

Rauner has been testing the waters and telling other Republicans he is gearing up to run, senior elected Republicans and Republican campaign veterans told the Sun-Times. Rauner did not return a call seeking comment.

Jonah Edelman, chair of Oregon-based Stand for Children, gave a very frank blow-by-blow of how he got the education reform legislation passed in Springfield this year and he said he was recruited to Illinois by Rauner.

Because Rauner is Republican, Edelman said, some expected his group to fund Republican candidates.

But Edelman said Rauner realized Madigan was the game in Illinois and so he funded six of Madigan’s Democratic legislative candidates and only three Republicans, helping win Madigan over to the cause.

When Emanuel left the Clinton White House to become an investment banker in the ’90s, one of the big deals he helped put together was Rauner’s firm’s purchase of SecurityLink from SBC Ameritech, where Emanuel’s successor as White House chief of staff, William Daley, would later become company president.

“GTCR private equity in Chicago bought from SBC their home security business,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times editorial board last year.

“That turned out to be a great business deal for the investors as well as the company, which was eventually bought by Tyco [Intl. Ltd.]”

Emanuel did not respond Friday to an offer to comment on how he would view Rauner’s candidacy for governor. Illinois has a history of Republican governors working cooperatively with Democratic mayors to get deals done.

Rauner’s name was floated for Chicago Public Schools CEO after Emanuel’s election.

Mayor Daley named Rauner chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.

He also serves on the board of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. The Harvard MBA is an energetic philanthropist and an avid motorcycle rider.

Successful Republican businessmen Ron Gidwitz and Jim Oberweis were unsuccessful in their runs for governor in recent elections.

But Michigan’s Rick Snyder, a former Gateway computer executive, showed last year that a businessman can make the jump directly to governor, some Illinois Republicans say.

Rauner explored but dropped a bid for governor last year. He is staking his claim unusually early for a 2014 race for governor. Gov. Pat Quinn narrowly won re-election just nine months ago. If Quinn were to decide not to seek re-election in 2014, Attorney General Lisa Madigan would be likely to seek the Democratic nomination with strong support from her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, the Illinois Democratic Party’s chairman.

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