Wealthy Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner moved a step closer Tuesday toward a potential bid for the Republican governor nomination, filing papers to form an exploratory committee and launching a 60-day listening tour of the state.
The venture capitalist and private equity specialist already has been making the rounds of the Republican county Lincoln Day dinner circuit. He often has appeared alongside prospective rivals that include state Sens. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Bill Brady of Bloomington along with state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria also is interested in the contest.
The formation of an exploratory committee allows him to engage in campaign fundraising. In an e-mail to supporters, Rauner said that in his travels of the state, “Folks seem hungry for an outsider who can’t be bribed and won’t be bought in Springfield.”
Rauner, who’s making his first bid for elective office, said he planned on holding more than 35 events in the next two months and would court industry leaders as well as “teachers and first responders, along with leaders of our party.”
Rauner has been outspoken in his opposition to public employee unions. He also is close to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and was appointed by the mayor to the city's economic development and job creation council.
Among the 20 members of Rauner’s exploratory committee announced Tuesday is Jack Roeser, a wealthy but outspoken and controversial conservative. Roeser has long sought to influence the destiny of the state’s moribund Republican Party and has a history of backing losing candidates.
In the 2010 U.S. Senate election, Roeser sharply criticized the eventual winner, Republican Mark Kirk, and other GOP officials for backing gay rights. Roeser questioned Kirk’s sexuality. In the 2010 GOP governor primary, Roeser backed Dillard, who narrowly lost to Brady.
Ken Griffin, another major money manager backing Republican causes, also is on Rauner’s exploratory committee. Griffin is founder and CEO of hedge fund Citadel LLC. He and wife Anne Dias Griffin gave Emanuel a combined $200,000 in campaign cash while also giving Brady, the unsuccessful GOP nominee, $450,000, records show.
“I think you’ll be excited by the group of people who have signed onto my team,” Rauner said in his e-mail to supporters. “They’re a smart group of folks who share my deep concern for Illinois — and my strong optimism for our future if we can stir up Springfield.”