Outgoing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday picked former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and businessman Willie Wilson when asked which Chicago mayoral candidates he preferred.
Rauner leaves office on Monday when Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker gets sworn in.
"I don't think I should opine too extensively on the mayor's race at this point. I don't think that's appropriate," Rauner said at a meeting of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. "I just think from a skills and a track record point of view, I think probably Paul Vallas might make the best mayor in my opinion, for what it's worth.
"Although Wilson would be an interesting option too," Rauner said. "A little more volatile."
Public support from the governor might not be helpful in the Feb. 26 city election. In November, Rauner won just more than 15 percent of the vote in the city. Pritzker pulled more than 81 percent.
"I appreciate the Governor's kind words," Vallas said in a statement. "I welcome the support of all Chicagoans who are committed to finding lasting solutions to the daunting problems Chicago is facing."
Of the mayoral candidates, Rauner said he also knows former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
"I'm very concerned for taxpayers and job creators what would happen with a Preckwinkle or Mendoza administration," he said. "Union officials. Spending proclivities. Ties to the machine."
Mendoza and Rauner feuded often in her opening years as Illinois comptroller. The job's control of the state's checkbook put her in a unique position to criticize the governor during the state's two-year budget stalemate.
Rauner said he's been friends with Vallas and Wilson for years and talks to them often.
He appointed Vallas to an administrative post at Chicago State University, the year after he recorded no taxable income, the Tribune has reported. Over the summer, Rauner appeared with Wilson at a South Side church where Wilson passed out money to pay property taxes and other expenses of congregation members. At the time, Rauner said he had given Wilson $200,000 to help struggling families but did not approve of Wilson handing out cash at the church.
"I'm very fond of Vallas and Wilson," Rauner said Thursday. "Don't agree with them on everything. Don't agree with myself some mornings, so that's OK."
The governor noted he's not a Chicago voter, as he's registered from his home in Highland Park.
Rauner on Wednesday performed one of his final official acts, swearing in the Illinois Senate in Springfield as Mayor Rahm Emanuel watched from the front row.