SPRINGFIELD — Jeanne Ives, the lawmaker challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination for governor, made the most Monday of what could be their only face-to-face appearance, accusing her rival of lying to his supporters about opposing publicly financed abortion and signing a "sanctuary" bill on immigration.
"We can't trust him," Ives, a Wheaton Republican, told the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Rauner used the question-and-answer session to plead for more time to take down his political nemesis, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago.
Rauner called the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. history a "crook" who has enriched himself through politics.
"This is not about Republicans versus Democrats," he said. "This is about taking power away from Madigan and giving it back to the people of Illinois."
The governor, who has made lowering local property taxes a focus of his tenure, has accused Madigan of making money off high property-tax assessments through his law firm, which gets paid to appeal assessments.
Rauner has been in constant battle with Madigan during his first term. The governor's vaunted "turnaround agenda" has gone largely unattained, although Rauner singled out one item, term limits for politicians, as the way to depose Madigan.
Later, the first-term governor lumped Madigan in with Democratic front-runner J.B. Pritzker as part of a "crony network of corruption and self-dealing." Rauner said he alone can beat Pritzker in November "because we are fighting for everyone."
Pritzker has faced questions since the Chicago Tribune released FBI-taped phone conversations of him seeking an appointment from now-imprisoned Gov. Rod Blagojevich, just weeks before Blagojevich's arrest. Pritzker points out he has not been accused of wrongdoing and simply wanted to offer himself for public service.
Asked why voters should expect anything different in a second term, Rauner said, "Never give up and never give in."
"He gave up and he gave in," Ives interrupted. She castigated Rauner for approving expanded public financing of abortion, saying he lied last spring and said he would veto it. And she ripped him for putting into law Democrats' TRUST Act, which limits how police interact with immigrants except in criminal investigations.
Rauner wouldn't answer whether he had flip-flopped on abortion but he bristled at Ives' characterization of the TRUST Act as a "sanctuary" law, which he opposes.
"It's embarrassing at this point. He's basically disqualified himself from this election. He's gotten nothing done," Ives said.
"If anything, this election should be a referendum on what he's been able to accomplish," she continued, adding a biting reference to the dozens of items on his turnaround agenda, "O-for-44."
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he wouldn't "dignify" Rauner's "crook" remark with a statement and said it appears the governor is running a campaign against Madigan because he has alienated his Republican base.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh maintained Rauner was unable to defend his record or point to accomplishments.
The election is March 20.