Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner became the first Republican elected governor of Illinois since 1998 as voters expressed frustration with the state’s cratering finances.
Rauner, 58, won 50.4 percent to 46.2 percent, with 91 percent of precincts reporting, according to preliminary results from the Associated Press.
The fiscal problems in Illinois served as a backdrop for the contest in President Barack Obama’s home state, which has the country’s most underfunded pension system and faces a deeper financial hole at the end of the year as a temporary income tax increase is set to expire.
The contest between Rauner, a first-time candidate, and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who has spent nearly his entire adult life in politics, gave voters a stark choice between two visions for the fifth-largest state. Rauner advocated for lower taxes to stimulate the economy, while Quinn, 65, pushed for making permanent the elevated income levy. Even with his victory, Rauner faces a daunting task in fixing the state’s looming budget crisis and worst credit rating in the nation.
Class warfare and allegations of corruption dominated the campaign. The Quinn camp mimicked the strategy that Democrats used against Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race and portrayed Rauner, who owns nine homes and reported a 2013 income of about $61 million, as out of touch. Rauner’s camp linked Quinn to his predecessor Governor Rod Blagojevich who was sentenced to prison in 2011 for 14 years on corruption charges.