Making his first campaign stop in Lake County since winning the Republican nomination for governor in March, Bruce Rauner told members of the Lake County Council for Seniors on Wednesday that he plans to preserve their safety net if elected in November.
“I can’t sit back and watch and wait while our state government fails us,” the Winnetka businessman told a gathering of more than 200 people at the Waukegan Ramada. “Unfortunately, our state government in Illinois is not working very well for us. It’s not working for you.
“Down (in Springfield), special-interest groups are taking money away from our social-services safety net. It’s being shredded,” Rauner added. “I want to go to work for you and deliver results so we have a social-services safety net that’s properly funded.”
Outside the banquet hall, in a designated area overseen by a special Waukegan Police detail, about a dozen protestors that included retired educators held signs that questioned Rauner’s commitment to seniors when it comes to state pensions.
“I am upset with Bruce Rauner for what he’s trying to do for the state of Illinois,” said Sue Greene of Waukegan, who retired from the Waukegan Public School District about a decade ago following a 34-year career. “I (think) that he is only interested in the upper echelon and the people that he can buy, and I don’t think he’s putting forward the kind of effort that we need as citizens of Illinois.
“I do not appreciate the fact that he wants to start to tax people’s Social Security pensions. I do not appreciate the fact that he thinks that charter schools are the answer, and of course he has a vested interest in charter schools,” added Greene, while protestors chanted “Bruce Rauner — hands off my retirement” behind her.
Inside, Rauner was greeted by a gallery of local Republicans that included Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, Lake County Board member Tom Weber, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, who is looking to reclaim the 10th District seat this fall.
Also in attendance were Waukegan Township Supervisor Patricia Jones and members of the Waukegan District 60 Board, including board President Anita Hanna and Tommy Rhyan.
Mary Carmody, executive director of the private, nonprofit Council for Seniors, said she invited Rauner to speak via an email to his campaign website and wanted to hear about his platform for seniors.
“I hope to hear from him how he will support senior issues,” Carmody said prior to Rauner’s remarks. “I’ve been to hundreds of websites for elected officials and wanna-be elected officials, and very few of them have a link for senior issues.
“There may be a page or a paragraph about Medicare, but it’s about more than just Medicare. Housing is a huge issue, food is a huge issue,” Carmody added. “So I hope he will be a great senior advocate.”
Carmody noted she also sent emails to candidates “from Gov. (Pat) Quinn on down” to come visit the Council for Seniors, but has yet to hear back from Quinn’s office.
The council operates out of Waukegan Township’s Park Place offices at 414 Lewis Ave., though it is not affiliated with the township. The organization provides assistance on such matters as managing public transportation options, assisting with utility payments and navigating the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.
Wednesday’s event honored volunteers who have worked with the council, including Diana Jurista, Joan Delisi, Beth Ragsdale, Peggy Drew, Carole Dore, the Rev. Dennis Broom, Betty Ruwitch, Pat Jermolowicz, Eleanor McMurrin, Ann Darrow, Ron Schmits, Linda Schmits, Frank Tatum, Opal Rice, Rayevelyn Curry, Edward Buschbacher and Dr. John R. Schwab.
After the volunteers were given their recognition, Rauner talked briefly about his connections to Lake County and the inspiration he drew as a child from his grandfather.
“I’m here for one simple reason — I love the state of Illinois passionately. We raised our six children here, we built businesses here,” Rauner said. “It’s great to be here, because I grew up in Lake County. I grew up in Deerfield. I spent much of my life here in Lake County, and I love it here.”
Rauner said his grandfather, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, “was my role model. He was like many of you in this room. He dedicated his life to giving back to the community. He didn’t have much money, but he would always find a couple of dollars on Sunday morning to put on the collection plate, even when he didn’t have a couple of dollars.”