Hilltop Voices: Hanna Garner on the Illinois gubernatorial race

Illinois native Hannah Garner argues that the results of the state’s gubernatorial race do not reflect the state’s values.

I have a bountiful amount of pride for my home state and, more specifically, the area I grew up in. I attended schools in the same school district my entire life before coming to William Jewell College. I found myself unable to explain to my college peers just what about my hometown meant so much to me. The Wisconsin-Illinois state line area, more specifically Rockford, Ill., gave me a perspective and up-bringing I value more than anything in the world.

My hometown is currently dubbed one of the most dangerous and poverty-stricken towns in the United States. Wrapping around the Rock River, a once thriving manufacturing hub, is now an area of crime and unemployment. The recession of 2008 hit the town especially hard, and Rockford doesn’t exactly have the resilience to get back on its feet. Yet, through all of our self-loathing, complaining and strife, we come together as a community. Rockford’s downtown area has seen more attention and improvement in the last five years than ever before.  The city began to give back with art expos in the city hall and weekend markets that gave local vendors opportunity to expand their audience. Slowly yet surely the community began to come together, knowing we could only progress if we all began to show our town the love it deserved. Living in Rockford meant having a one-of-a-kind grit and character. The phrase “Go Rockford” meant not being afraid to go downtown and bring local artisanship and business back to the area.

Because it was heading in the right direction, it seemed obvious to me what the people of Rockford wanted. Winnebago County, which includes Rockford and other surrounding towns, voted overwhelmingly to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.  Yet, Governor Pat Quinn, whose main platform centered around this minimum wage increase, lost his incumbency to Chicago-based venture capitalist, Bruce Rauner, who openly disagreed with this raise of wage. Not only did this irony happen in my hometown but across the entire state of Illinois. While electing one of the wealthiest men in Illinois as our governor, 64% of voters still voted for a 3% surcharge to any taxpayer whose income topped one million dollars.

While I don’t doubt that Bruce Rauner is an educated, powerful speaker that could very well improve Illinois, growing up on the state line makes me skeptical. Bruce Rauner has more than once stated his admiration of and friendship with Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker. Walker, sworn into office in 2011, introduced a trivial budgeting plan that made over one billion dollars of cuts to the state’s education budget. Living so close to Wisconsin’s capitol, Madison, I was able to experience the resulting protests and Wisconsin’s first gubernatorial recall election. I watched Wisconsin educators stand on the capitol square protesting against the man who decreased their wages and lessened their bargaining powers. While Walker is still in office and was reelected Nov. 4, witnessing the frustration firsthand has given me reservations about both Scott Walker and his protégé, Bruce Rauner.

I know that, much like Rockford, the entire state of Illinois is frustrated. We feel alone in this fight for growth, and it seems that our politicians would rather gain the most money and power for themselves than improve the state. We’re frustrated with the corruption and scandal found in the Democratic Party. Although it happened in 2009, the “pay to play” scandal of former governor Rod Blagojevich is still on the minds of Illinoisans when they arrive at the polls. Being a Democrat in Illinois comes with the stigma of corruption and dishonesty. Still, the constitutional amendments and their overwhelming support say it all. As a state, we’re ready to encourage the growth of the middle class, and we want to see our communities experience the growth other areas have since the economic recession of 2008.  While voting for Bruce Rauner seems to be a contradiction to the direction of the amendments we just passed, I’m not disappointed in the midterm election’s results. Every county in Illinois, aside from Cook, voted in favor of Rauner. It is obvious the people of Illinois generally favor Rauner over Pat Quinn. What I do hope, however, is that Bruce Rauner listens to the voices of Illinois. My family, my hometown and my state, deserve a governor that loves the state as much as its people do. Illinois deserves a governor that will represent us properly and will listen to our voices even if our consensus doesn’t agree with his own. Illinois, the home of Chicago, Midwestern pride and the Land of Lincoln, deserves to grow and flourish in the years to come.

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