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Turnout could swing GOP race

Associated Press

CHICAGO - The Republican primary battle for Illinois governor is coming to a close after an unusual campaign featuring unprecedented involvement by labor unions, allegations of sexual harassment and a millionaire who sunk more money into his campaign than any candidate seeking a gubernatorial nomination in state history.

Wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner says he wants to "shake up" Springfield and has called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels his role models. To win the GOP nomination, Rauner must top three longtime lawmakers - state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and Treasurer Dan Rutherford - who say they have the experience and expertise needed to run the state.

Party leaders consider the election critical to winning the governor's mansion for the first time in more than a decade and regaining some control in a state government dominated by Democrats. They see Gov. Pat Quinn -who faces an underfunded, little-known challenger for the Democratic nomination - as particularly vulnerable because of the state's deep financial troubles.

Rauner has been leading in the polls, with Dillard in second place but picking up support in recent weeks. Voters head to the polls Tuesday.

Rauner, a venture capitalist from Winnetka, jumped into his first bid for public office in a big way, launching his first television ads last fall - months earlier than is typical - and sustaining the multimillion-dollar campaign through to election day. Of the more than $14 million he raised, more than $6 million was his own money - a record for an Illinois primary and multiples more than his three opponents combined.

Rauner used the funds to blast Quinn's leadership, "career politicians" in Springfield and the "government union bosses" he says are responsible for many of Illinois' economic problems.

The attacks on organized labor brought unions into the race at a level not seen before in an Illinois GOP primary. They spent millions on anti-Rauner television ads. Three major public-employee unions - the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 - also endorsed Dillard.

With the traditionally low turnout of a primary election, Dillard is hoping the race will turn in part on those union voters. He and at least one union have been urging Democrats to pull GOP ballots and vote for him.

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