Updated: January 12, 2014 9:43PM
Let the Illinois governor campaign begin. And our work as citizens. Truly.
Now it kicks in with a bit more urgency, as evidenced by a few developments:
Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner is traveling around downstate Illinois this week by bus. He also told supporters he’ll participate in five debates or forums between now and the March 18 primary.
That served to solidify Rauner’s strategy to assume the mantle of Republican front-runner, and his opponents acknowledged as much. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, the second-time GOP candidate from Hinsdale, sent a release out criticizing Rauner’s bus tour and suggesting Rauner’s ties to and friendship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel mean he really is a Democrat.
Some liberal Democrats probably scoff at the notion either of them are Democrats, given their less than cordial relationship with public worker unions, among other views that are not traditionally liberal.
That wasn’t enough. Dillard also sent a release pointing out that he and his running mate will participate in 19 forums or debates, again criticizing Rauner for not participating in more.
It’s standard operating practice for the front-runner to limit occasions at which his opponents or the media can take a potshot at him with him present or opportunities at which a reporter can ask a question that could trip him up.
That’s what’s happening here. Expect those events at which Rauner isn’t controlling the agenda and the questions and comments coming his way to be limited so long as he and his enormous campaign funds can control the message and his status as front-runner.
And that should only underscore the responsibility each of us has to learn as much as we can about the candidates who would lead us and our state.
I know a lot of people skip primaries in Illinois because they hate having to ask for a Republican or Democrat ballot or the weather’s cold or they assume they’re all bums and they can’t pick the lesser of the evils.
To that I say, get over it. Why would you let someone else decide? Why would you give up? Why would you cede half of the decision to others?
If we’re going to reboot Illinois and work hard at our obligations as citizens, then it’s time we discipline ourselves to pay attention. It’s time we start thinking about the important questions and it’s time we think about whether we’re getting deep, detailed answers. If we don’t, we’ve got to keep demanding them.
Here are a few to get us all started:
◆ Do you think the pension changes signed into law last month are constitutional? What do you think should be done to fix pension debt in the thousands of municipalities all over the state now? What’s your view of end-of-career salary spikes that boost pension? What’s your view of public workers getting both a full salary and a full pension at the same time?
◆ If you are in favor of letting the temporary income tax drop to 3.75 percent a year from now, then where, really specifically, are you going to find the $4 billion in cuts to state spending you’ll lose in your first full year in office in 2015? School funding? Prisons? Where will you find cuts that total enough?
◆ If you’re in favor of raising taxes, which ones, why and by how much? Income taxes? Sales taxes? Gas taxes? All of the above? If you’re in favor of a progressive tax, why? What rates would you impose on what salary ranges and why?
◆ What’s your detailed plan for creating good jobs in Illinois? How will you carry it out? What’s your view on keeping businesses from leaving Illinois? How do you intend to see that they don’t leave? What should corporate and business leaders expect from you? What’s your position on our minimum wage and why? (Speaking of the minimum wage, Rauner says he wants to cut it a $1 to match our neighbors, while Gov. Pat Quinn pushes to raise it, giving us all a clear difference. Illinois has the 4th highest minimum in the nation.)
◆ How will you lead us to do better by our children and grandchildren? What will your education policy look like? What will your approach to alternative and charter schools be? What about vouchers? What do you think of our current testing schedule? How would you change school funding? What do you think of the move to core curriculums or an emphasis on science and technology?
◆ What can you and will you do to restore our faith in our state government? How would you improve transparency and accountability? How would you stem corruption? What’s your view on the current redistricting reform effort? What’s your view on the current term-limit effort? What other changes can you institute to end insider deals and patronage?
It’s a start. You get the idea. They’re running but it’s our duty to the hard work of building a better state. We do that by asking questions, demanding answers beyond sound bites, registering and voting. Yes voting.
Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.