Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is Rauschenberger the Centrist in the Republican Guv Primary?

Revised at 8:00 pm on Saturday night.

For quite a while, it has been clear that Steve Rauschenberger, Elgin State Senator and Republican Primary gubernatorial candidate, has been moving toward the center of the political spectrum. Indeed, some might call his position center right. He has spoken of favoring a child centered education, which is an adored phrase and concept of liberals, soccer moms and public school administrators in the suburbs, but could also be viewed favorably by home schoolers and other parents who want more parental control of and choice in education.

Senator Rauschenberger is also fond of saying that our public schools reflect an outdated, 1951-Harry Truman era model of education. That criticism also might be viewed favorably by education reformers on the center right. Rauschenberger has started to talk about looking at consolidation of school districts as a way of dealing with both efficiency and school funding equity issues, which might please some on the left and right.

He is favorable to charter schools, likes the concept of school vouchers and school choice and he has voted for pilot school voucher programs in the past. But Senator Rauschenberger wouldn't sign on to move toward school vouchers, unless there was plenty of time for planning, transition and assessment along the way.

Although Rauschenberger does not much like the idea of tax pledges, or any pledges to groups for that matter, he sort of said, on "Public Affairs," that he would not raise the income tax or sales tax, and certainly said there was no need to do so. He says he would have voted no on "All Kids," but Rauschenberger managed to be out of Springfield on the day of the vote. And, there was his recent nourishing of both women’s groups and some conservative family value types [a twofer] when Rauschenger joined women’s groups and conservatives in their objections to Abercrombie’s shirts for females [that contained the printed words, at chest level, “If you’ve got these, who needs brains”].

Conservative Republicans remember, with fondness, the phrase-- Reagan Democrats. They, of course, were Democrats who felt chased out of their party by what they perceived to be anti-war, anti-patriotic and anti-family value Democratic leaders and were ripe for the picking by Ronald Reagan Republicans in 1980.

Similar to Reagan Democrats is the phrase and concept of Vallas Republicans.

The Vallas Republicans were and are Republicans who were literally repulsed and repelled by what they perceived to be the squalor and corruption of George Ryan and didn’t feel that Jim Ryan, Pat O’Malley or Corinne Wood quite suited them. So, they pulled a Democratic ballot for Paul Vallas in the 2002 Gubernatorial Primary and almost pushed the successful, thoughtful former Chicago Public School CEO to victory over Rod Blagojevich [See a forthcoming blog post on this site regarding Cook County Board President candidate Mike Quigley and his appearance on Public Affairs [ here] and this Monday night at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 for more on the Vallas voters and their potential impact on the Cook County Board President race].

Although some of the above discussed Rauschenberger positions might be pushing the envelope if he wants to stay within the center right political band, all of them are generally within the umbrella package that might attract the Vallas Republicans back to the Republican Primary, and to Steve in particular, in 2006, or so hopes Rauschenberger. Steve's strong pro- reform, anti-public corruption message and criticism of the old Daley Ryan Combine should also play well with Vallas Republicans.

Further, Rauschenberger thinks he can target a broad spectrum of middle class voters and still be trusted by many conservatives to be there for them, when they need him on the issues important to the conservative base. For example, although he doesn't talk about it alot, Rauschenberger is pro-Life, without exceptions, except for the Life of the mother. And, he makes no apologies for opposing the gay rights legislation that passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor this year.

Not easy to pull off, but the above appears to be part of Rauschenberger’s larger strategy for victory on March 21, 2006. Rauschenberger is trying to build a base of middle class Republican voters. As we know, about 80% of the voters think of themselves as middle class, although the true number is probably 40% to 50%, at best. In any case, 80% is a mighty large and inviting target. Take a listen: humor and parody tell us a lot about real life.

[And watch for our video pod cast interview with Oberweis, also filmed on Friday, to go up on the Public Affairs Cinema Verite within the next day or two].
Jeff Berkowitz; What do you two [Rauschenberger and Oberweis] think? What are Judy Baar [Topinka’s] chances here?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: In the general election or in the Primary?

Jeff Berkowitz: In the Primary

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: She’s got a substantial chance in the Primary.

Jeff Berkowitz: If you three stay in, you’ve got three conservatives, don’t you split the vote?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: Three?

Jeff Berkowitz: You and Oberweis and Brady. Don’t you count all three of you as conservatives?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: No, I think both Jim and Bill Brady have said I am not a conservative anymore.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is that right?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: [They have] pushed me to the center.

Jeff Berkowitz: They have said you’re not a conservative?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: Yeah!

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you accept that nomenclature?

Sen. Steve Rauschenberger: No, but that’s what [Senator] Bill Brady said, so I am happy to occupy the 62% of the center. I got Judy on the left and I got Oberweis and Brady on the right.

Jim Oberweis: I will agree that Judy is definitely more liberal than you.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Steve Rauschenberger and Jim Oberweis, speaking with each other and “Public Affairs,” on Friday, December 2, 2005 after they had spoken to a lunch gathering of the Illinois Coalition on Jobs, Growth and Prosperity at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, IL and as will be shown soon on a forthcomning video podcast here.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at