CHICAGO - In a major upset, the Central Committee of the Chicago Republican Party voted 17 to 3 with 2 abstentions to back conservative challenger State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) over incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner. The vote took place Wednesday evening at a general meeting of the city's Republican ward committeemen.
"It's almost unheard of for a regular Republican organization to fail to endorse an incumbent governor," said Chicago GOP Chairman Chris Cleveland. "The people in the room felt that Rauner had betrayed them."
UPDATE: Rep. Ives has since issued a response to the Chicago GOP endorsement: “I am proud to have won the confidence of the Chicago GOP. They are warriors for transparency and small government reforms in a city run almost exclusively by the Chicago Machine. Their bold advocacy will be critical to stoking the revolt, so that we can deliver the conservative reforms Illinoisans were promised in 2014, before Governor Rauner’s wholesale betrayal of the GOP."
Ives spoke to the group for nearly an hour before the vote. Governor Rauner had been invited to speak, but declined to do so. Rauner has avoided large gatherings of Republicans since signing a bill to create taxpayer-funded abortions earlier in the year.
"Jeanne impressed everyone with her determination to hit the state's problems head-on. She also showed a command of policy details," Cleveland said.
Cleveland also serves as the Ives' campaign finance chairman.
The decision by the Chicago Republican Party to back Ives is significant because of the sheer number of votes produced by the City of Chicago, the group's statement said.
"Republicans in the city produce 5% of the Republican primary vote, and 7.5% of the Republican vote in a general election. The number of Republican votes in the city is larger than the number produced by any county except Cook and DuPage. Primary voters often look to local party organizations for guidance on candidate selection."