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Illinois governor candidates exchange criticisms at forum

Published: Monday, July 14, 2014 11:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 14, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file photo)
Gov. Pat Quinn heads May 19 to speak with House Democrats during their caucus meeting at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

CHICAGO – The candidates for Illinois governor hammered each other Monday, with Republican Bruce Rauner saying that Gov. Pat Quinn hasn’t delivered for African-Americans and the Quinn campaign suggesting Rauner profited from a business that provided substandard care to the developmentally disabled.

The two issues emerged Monday at a business forum and after a weekend news report alleging a long-term care company once tied to Rauner faced lawsuits and disciplinary action over the mistreatment of residents.

Quinn’s running mate, Paul Vallas, told reporters in Chicago that more questions needed to be answered about Rauner’s involvement with American Habilitation Services. Rauner’s former private equity firm launched the for-profit company in 1996.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reported Sunday that allegations included fatalities and “deplorable” living conditions. In one case, the state of Texas took over a care center after an 11-year-old resident died.

“This is the latest on a series of revelations about problems that he’s had with businesses and businesses that he’s invested in,” Vallas said of Rauner. “Either you’re a successful man who takes responsibilities or you’re a successful profiteer who ignores responsibilities.”

Rauner, a venture capitalist from Winnetka, told The Associated Press that criticism of the company and the management team picked by his firm, GTCR, was fair. Rauner said that he wasn’t personally involved. He didn’t sit on the board or manage day-to-day operations, a campaign spokesman said.

“That company failed. There’s really no excuse for it,” Rauner said, adding that management team chosen by GTCR “let us down.”

Meanwhile, the Illinois Republican Party shot back by pointing to cases of neglect of residents in state-run facilities under Quinn’s tenure, and called Vallas’ news conference “shameful.” Vallas said any incidents weren’t comparable since Rauner was a businessman trying to make money.

Rauner stepped down from GTCR in 2012 to make his gubernatorial bid and has often cited his business experience on the campaign trail. He’s said he’ll help improve the state’s business climate, but Quinn’s campaign has tried to question his record, pointing to companies owned by GTCR that outsourced. The November matchup in Democratic Illinois is one of the most closely-watched gubernatorial races nationwide.

Earlier Monday, Rauner appeared at a business forum at Chicago State University, which serves a predominantly black student population.

Rauner mentioned a lack of jobs and educational opportunities for blacks. He’s recently made more efforts to appeal to minority voters, speaking at churches and forming a Latino coalition. Both groups have heavily supported Quinn in the past.

“Quinn has taken the black community completely for granted,” Rauner told AP. “He’s not delivered really for them, or really for any family in this state.”

Quinn has said that he isn’t worried about Rauner’s attempts to make inroads. During an event commemorating the Civil Rights Act this month, Quinn said more than 30 percent of his cabinet directors and staff are people of color and his campaign staff on Monday pointed to a 60 percent increase in state contracts with minority-owned businesses.

Quinn questioned Rauner’s record on hiring minorities in return. Rauner has acknowledged he had difficulty finding candidates in news reports saying he hired few minorities.

“Mr. Rauner will say anything to avoid answering questions about troubling allegations of abuse and neglect at his businesses,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement.

Quinn is a Chicago Democrat seeking a second term. Rauner is making his first bid for public office.

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