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Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana Rauner. | Sun-Times file photo 0

A Rauner v. Pritzker race could be awkward for Diana

December 25th, 2016

Diana Rauner has been in the cross hairs of her husband’s gubernatorial job ever since she decided to keep her position as president of Ounce of Prevention Fund, a nonprofit that gets state funding for its work for children.

But Bruce Rauner’s re-election plans may prove to be an even greater challenge.

The governor has poured $50 million into his campaign war chest in an apparent effort to scare off potential Democratic challengers. It might work on some but not likely J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire entrepreneur who’s popped up as a possible candidate.

A Rauner v. Pritzker race could be especially awkward for Diana Rauner as Pritzker is a national leader in early-childhood education and supported the Ounce, which funds early-childhood education programs. Earlier this year, Pritzker and his wife, M.K. Pritzer, gave $5 million to the organization. He and Diana are also friends.

Pritzker and the Rauners declined comment. In a statement, the Ounce says it and its leadership, including its president, “will not weigh in on the 2018 gubernatorial campaigns. Our sole focus is to ensure that early childhood education remains a priority with current and future administrations.” Of Pritzkers, the Ounce said, “We value our longstanding partnership with them built on mutual respect, and expect that to continue.”

Pritzker’s involvement to early childhood runs deep. He worked behind the scenes on a 2014 White House summit on the issue, where he also announced a commitment of $25 million toward early childhood. He underwrote the work of Nobel laureate James Heckman at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker Consortium on Early Childhood Development. And when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich created a universal pre-school program, Pritzker supported that, too.

A big-money gubernatorial race may sicken those worried about cash controlling politics. Given her passion for the Ounce, you have to wonder whether Diana has the stomach for such a race. Or will she secretly route for Pritzker to win?

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