EFFINGHAM — Two of the four Republican candidates for governor called for party unity, beginning March 19.
Candidates Bill Brady and Bruce Rauner told more than 100 people at the annual Lincoln Day celebration in Effingham Saturday that the real enemy is Gov. Pat Quinn.
"We need someone who can stand for our values," said Brady, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee who lost a narrow electoral decision to the Democrat Quinn.
"This is our year," said Rauner, the billionaire venture capitalist making his first run for political office. "We're going to sweep Pat Quinn into the dustbin of history."
Brady and Rauner were joined Saturday by a third candidate, embattled State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who has been fighting off allegations of sexual misconduct. A fourth candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, was unable to attend Saturday's event but was represented by his running mate, lieutenant governor hopeful Jil Tracy.
Brady's 2010 running mate, Jason Plummer, introduced the gubernatorial candidates Saturday, but not before imploring the Republicans in attendance to put aside intra-party differences after the March 18 primary.
"Primaries are tough because friends end up voting against each other," Plummer said. "But I ask you to recognize the enemy is Pat Quinn."
Rutherford admitted that he faces an uphill battle to win the nomination after reports — some say instigated by the Rauner camp — of sexual misconduct in the treasurer's office.
"There are things that come up just before the election that make it hard to talk about the issues," he said. "I've got a couple of friends in the race, but I think the skill set I bring to you is important."
Rutherford noted that he is the only candidate of the four to win a statewide election.