A Cautionary Tale From Illinois

At this time, former investor, executive, and 2010 New York State Comptroller candidate Harry Wilson is the frontrunner to become the Republican candidate for Governor of New York in 2018.

If Wilson does pull the trigger on a gubernatorial bid, it seems likely that he will position himself as a moderate, fiscally-responsible problem-solver. During his previous statewide candidacy, Wilson took a pro-choice position on abortion. Some observers believe that running a moderate candidate (or even a socially liberal candidate) is the GOP’s only chance to oust Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018; however, this approach is not without its dangers.

In 2014, wealthy Republican businessman Bruce Rauner was elected Governor of Illinois. Rauner ran as a moderate with “no social agenda.” Pro-life legislators and advocates—including Cardinal Blasé Cupich—contend that Gov. Rauner promised them he would veto an abortion expansion bill that included taxpayer funding for abortion. Unfortunately, reports indicate that Rauner was speaking out of both sides of his mouth; during his campaign, he allegedly promised pro-abortion forces that he would support taxpayer funding for abortion. On September 28, 2017, Gov. Rauner signed an abortion expansion bill into law; he has since been described as “Benedict Rauner” for his betrayal of pro-life Illinois voters, and at least one Republican elected official intends to challenge him in a Republican primary next year. Gov. Rauner’s deviations from conservative principles are not limited to sanctity-of-life issues; he has also signed bills relating to immigration and transgender issues that have damaged his standing with other Republicans.

The lesson from Illinois is clear: Conservatives in blue states should not fall so deeply in love with “electability” that they support candidates who don’t truly share their values. Candidates like this can end up doing a great deal of harm.