Here’s a question that’s been on several minds lately: Why is the state’s leading anti-abortion activist, Jack Roeser, backing Republican Bruce Rauner, who has said he favors a woman’s right to choose?
Mr. Roeser, a staunch conservative, has contributed millions of dollars to anti-abortion groups and candidates. His commitment to the abortion issue never has been questioned, and he’s at the top of anyone’s list of true believers.
But when you think of teachers-union haters, Mr. Roeser also is right at the top of the list. The founder of manufacturer Otto Engineering Inc. spent a fortune battling them. The unions are, the businessman says, “the most troublesome, rotten sons of bit***s in the whole state.”
And when you think about folks who despise Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mr. Roeser leads the vanguard. He once called Mr. Madigan a “despot” and “the man most responsible for the desolation of our once-great state.”
Mr. Rauner is a well-known foe of the teachers unions. They’re his favorite punching bag, along with the “big-government union bosses” at AFSCME and SEIU who “have a stranglehold on the state” and “bribe” politicians.
Mr. Rauner also has not been shy about attacking Mr. Madigan. It’s basically his whole campaign theme. Late last year, Mr. Rauner said he would “stand up to Madigan, because I know where his special-interest groups are, and I can go after them.”
Abortion, unions, Mr. Madigan. Maybe, the thinking goes, Mr. Roeser figured he’d just go two out of three.
BREAKFASTS WITH MADIGAN
Some have darkly suggested that Mr. Rauner bought off Mr. Roeser with hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Mr. Roeser’s charities and political funds.
“Nobody’s gonna buy me,” Mr. Roeser scoffed when we spoke by phone. He’s got a point. He’s a millionaire several times over thanks to Otto, a Carpentersville-based switch manufacturer.
It turns out, Mr. Roeser strongly believes that Mr. Rauner is against abortion “from the moment of conception.”
“I’d describe (Mr. Rauner) as a guy who is a morally right-to-life guy, but not on the hustings,” Mr. Roeser explained.
The Rauner campaign wouldn’t respond on the record, only pointing to Mr. Rauner’s previous public statements, in which he describes himself as someone who believes the decision to have an abortion ought to be left up to the woman, along with her family and minister if she so chooses.
And there’s something else that maybe Mr. Roeser doesn’t know. A state legislator told me not long ago that she’s been in small meetings with candidate Rauner where he’s said that he has regularly met with Speaker Madigan, breakfasting with the man he publicly boasts about crushing.
‘WAY IS CLEAR’
Mr. Madigan’s spokesman confirmed the two have met “several times.” The meetings were cordial, nonconfrontational and productive, he said. The spokesman said he didn’t think the two men have met since Mr. Rauner formally announced his campaign for governor last June. The Rauner campaign didn’t respond to questions about when Messrs. Madigan and Rauner last met or how often the two have broken bread. Mr. Rauner frequently talks about his desire to work with legislators once elected, a campaign spokesman points out. Maybe Mr. Roeser just misunderstood Mr. Rauner. Or maybe Mr. Roeser hears only what he wants to hear. The advantage for candidates who have never held office before, like Mr. Rauner, is that they have no voting records. It’s nearly impossible to pin them down on just about any issue if they don’t want to be. What’s not in dispute is that Mr. Rauner needs people like Mr. Roeser to win the Republican primary, but he needs to favor abortion rights to win the general election. He’ll also need to work with Mr. Madigan if he’s elected and hopes to get anything done. A lot of Republicans are overlooking quite a few differences with Mr. Rauner, whom they believe can win it all. “The way is clear to straighten out the Republican Party,” Mr. Roeser told me about Mr. Rauner. I wonder what they’ll think if Mr. Rauner is actually elected.