Posted Online: March 09, 2014, 12:00 am

Editorial: Time to shake up state

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The Dispatch and The rock Island Argus

Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
In this April 1, 2013, photo, Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner speaks after attending a meeting of The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition in Chicago. Rauner said is he running for Illinois governor in 2014. He will face state Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the GOP primary. Republican Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady also have expressed interest.
Photo: Paul Colletti
Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford
Photo: Submitted & Paul Colletti/staff
Republican Illinois Governor candidates Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard.
The GOP race for governor pits a wealthy venture capitalist with no government resume against a trio of lawmakers with deep experience and strong records in Illinois government.

Like most folks seeking to hire someone for an important job, we value experience. And Republican Sen. Kirk Dillard, Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Sen. Bill Brady have it in spades. We've lauded all three at various times on these pages over the years, and endorsed Sens. Dillard and Brady in separate gubernatorial primaries.

We also do not subscribe to the notion that "throw-the-bums-out" is the best way for the electorate to respond to challenges in government. We do, however, find truth in the old saw about the problem with doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That's why it's time to take a serious look at whether Illinois is so badly broken that only major change will fix it. We believe Mr. Rauner offers voters the best opportunity to launch such an important and overdue debate.
Mr. Rauner's opponents are right that he lacks meaningful experience in the complicated, rough-and-tumble world of Illinois politics and that he has reached deeply into his own pockets, and those of wealthy friends, to bankroll his campaign. But both could also be advantages. Mr. Rauner's wealth and his political independence suggest he will not be beholden to the often-crippling influence of special interests or legislative leaders.

Sens. Brady and Dillard and Treasurer Rutherford say they have the skills necessary to lead a state dominated by the powerful Democrat legislative duo of House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. All have had years to do so, but have not demonstrated results on the grand scale Illinois requires.It's also disappointing that Mr. Rutherford has had the bully pulpit of the treasurer's office at his disposal, but hasn't used it as effectively as we hoped.

His legal entanglements over claims he sexually harassed a staffer and used state workers for campaign duties also have impacted his campaign. Mr. Rutherford has vehemently denied the allegations and should be considered innocent of them unless they are proved to be true. But we believe his failure to release the results of a state-paid internal investigation he has said would clear him will make it difficult for him to win either next Tuesday or in November.

Mr. Rauner suggests that, like Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Chris Christie in New Jersey, he is the outsider with what it takes to turn around the state's finances, reduce the red tape crippling business and, most of all, grow Illinois jobs and investment. His impressive real-word success offers hope that his leadership skills will serve him equally well in government. If he's selected by Republicans on March 18, his challenge will be in detailing much more specific plans for getting Illinois back on track.

Based on their records and long commitment to making Illinois a better place to live, we believe Sens. Dillard and Brady and Treasurer Rutherford could slide easily into the governor's office and get to work within the system to try to change it. But is incremental change at glacial speed what Illinois needs? Or is it time to explore shaking up a system that has made one of the best states in the nation one of the worst in far too many categories?
Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to easily win the Democratic primary against underfunded and nearly unknown Chicagoan Tio Hardiman. He should. The Chicago Democrat incumbent has earned the right to defend his record in the November election.

We believe Illinoisans would be best served by a General Election contest that features a robust debate on the most important issues facing the state between Gov. Quinn and the status quo and Mr. Rauner and his agenda for change.