By Rick Pearson – CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Wednesday delivered a hard-hitting critique of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, accusing him of pushing an agenda that would return the state to “the robber barons of the 19th century.”
Clinton’s speech to several hundred people at the Parkway Ballroom in Bronzeville had been billed as a get-out-the-vote rally aimed at trying to galvanize African-American supporters ahead of the March 15 Illinois primary election.
Hillary Clinton speaks about gun violence in Chicago. Feb. 17, 2016. (WGN-TV)
But the event evolved into an extended and surprising criticism of the former private equity investor Rauner — a potential way to reach out to backers of her tenacious political rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and his populist appeal of pushing against the wealthy, Wall Street and income inequality.
In the process, Clinton, who was born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge, underscored just how critical the top of the presidential ticket could be in November to lower-ballot races here — particularly the Democratic supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate that Republicans are challenging.
“When I look at what’s happening here in Illinois, (it’s a) Republican agenda to roll back the clock on everything that made the middle class strong in the 20th century, it’s pretty terrifying,” Clinton said.
“They want to undercut workers’ rights, undercut unions. You know, the American labor movement was essential to building the American middle class,” she said.
Clinton said Rauner’s pro-business, union-weakening agenda called for eliminating the payment of prevailing union wages on public works projects and would take away “hard-won rights to bargain collectively” with public workers. She also said the lack of a state budget has affected working parents cut off from affordable child care, eliminated some services for treatment for drug addiction and prevented payment of grants to college students from lower-income families.