SPRINGFIELD — Conservatives furious about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion in Illinois are threatening to put up a challenger against the first-term governor in next spring’s Republican primary.
The new House Republican floor leader, Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, called a primary “inevitable” after Rauner agreed Thursday to enhanced medical coverage for abortion, reversing the position he articulated months earlier.
“This guy is done,” Breen said Friday. “No matter that he writes big checks.”
But some experts suggest such a revolt won’t make much of a dent given Rauner’s power of incumbency — and his pocketbook. He has $70 million in the bank and easy access to millions more.
“It’s the type of issue that galvanizes a segment of the population,” Loyola University political scientist John Frendreis said of the abortion question. “I’m just not sure they could mount a successful insurgency against him. He is the major donor for the entire array of candidates running for the state Legislature next year.”
Frendreis said party faithfuls will look beyond 2018, to 2020 — control of the next legislative remap. He predicts they’ll conclude they have a better chance of retaining the governor’s office with Rauner than wresting control of the House or Senate from powerhouse Democrats.
Breen, who didn’t immediately mention any potential challengers, likened conservative discontent over Rauner to the five stages of grief. He said loyalists ought to move through denial, anger and the others, and then quickly reach the final stage of acceptance by finding someone new.
Rauner, a private-equity investor, won his first political office in 2014. He drew praise for his vocal criticism of Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan, the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. history. But Rauner has had a rough summer. He lost a…