3 Surprises From Gov. Rauner’s Visit

3 Surprises From Gov. Rauner’s Visit


It’s not every day that Kane County gets a visit from The Gov.

In fact, the last time folks remember a sitting governor stopping by was back in the days of Big Jim Thompson — one of the Illinois governors of the past few decades who was NOT indicted, by the way.

But I digress. The purpose of this column is to give you a little bit of the flavor of Bruce Rauner’s Tuesday visit to Kane County — some of the comments, observations and human stuff that fall through the cracks of most reporting, the summary you’d give your friends when they ask, “How was the governor’s visit?”

Please keep in mind that these are my observations, filtered through the screen of personal experience. In other words, this is the standard disclaimer that what you read here is not the opinion or viewpoint of Kane County government or any elected official, just me.

Observation No. 1 — Rauner’s a better public speaker than I expected.

He’s probably had more than a few chances to polish the speech he delivered Tuesday, but it’s a good one, full of common sense and well-framed arguments — but the delivery was top-notch, as well. I guess I was expecting either the Rauner we’ve seen in news clips (who sometimes looks stiff and uncomfortable) or the Rauner we’ve seen in folksy campaign ads (who sometimes seems contrived.)

The guy we saw Tuesday was natural, spontaneous, considerate … likeable.

Observation No. 2 — Nice touch with the opening.

Rauner didn’t launch right into the meat of the matters at hand, although it didn’t take him long to get there.

He did throw in some anecdotes, I’ll try to summarize two of them here. (Although I don’t think I’ll do them justice.)

Rauner talked about what it’s like living in the governor’s residence in Springfield — which is something many of the past lot of governors weren’t known to do.

“The first day I went to shave, brown water came out of the faucet,” he said, with a little laugh that seemed genuine and down to earth and set a nice tone for the balance of the speech.

A lot of folks talk about the governor’s energy, and it is something to see. One thing that impressed me was that for Rauner, every day, every meal is a chance to get some work done, and that under-used Governor’s Mansion has become a place where Rauner regularly hosts legislators from both sides of the aisle.

“I invite them over for breakfast and for dinner,” he said. “There’s usually about a half dozen, and we have great discussions. We have great communication, mutual respect, and I try to enlist their support. The truth is, we agree on a lot of things.”

Observation No. 3 — Rauner believes what he’s saying.

Sometimes you hear a speech, and it’s performed as rote. Sometimes there’s eloquence that’s sparks your appreciation, intelligence and/or emotion, but you know part of what you’re seeing and hearing and appreciating is the craft of the messaging.

I got the impression — and again, it’s just me talking here and this only comes from one, brief viewing — that at least part of Rauner’s speechifying comes from the core.

“If you want strong unions, I’m not saying you have to give that up,” he said. “I’m just saying, you decide. Who can argue that’s wrong?”

*  *  *

That’s the visceral report — three random observations, and admittedly, the “good stuff.”

In the course of my career as a newspaper reporter and editor, I’ve interviewed or hosted editorial board meetings with every Illinois governor since James R. Thompson, up to and including Rod Blagojevich, and let me tell you, that guy could charm your socks off.

So take what I say with a grain of salt and for what it’s worth: a featury sidebar, a snapshot encounter, the conversation you and I would have if we met at the coffee shop.

The stuff that’s usually left on the cutting-room floor.