Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday he’s “very proud” of his record of appointing minorities to top positions in his administration during his first term.
Less than two weeks before voters decide whether he’ll get another four years in office, the Republican responded to a new WBEZ investigation that found the ranks of Rauner’s department heads and state board appointees are overwhelmingly white and male.
Rauner’s cabinet is 79 percent white, with only four blacks, two Hispanics, and two Asians among his 38 picks to lead state government agencies.
And reports obtained by WBEZ show his nearly 1,200 appointees to boards, commissions, and task forces in the past three years were 73 percent white, 10 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian. No race was given for 7 percent of the people Rauner chose.
As a whole, Illinois’ population is far more diverse than the makeup of those Rauner appointments. But on Thursday, the governor defended his record.
“We’re very proud of who we’ve appointed, and we look forward to doing more and more,” Rauner said after an appearance at a bank in a predominantly black neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. “This is about helping the families, African-American families and Latino families, making sure their quality of life has improved and they have more jobs.”
Last week, shortly before the WBEZ story was published, Rauner boasted that he had picked “many” African-Americans and Latinos for “key boards, key leadership positions in our departments.”
On Thursday, though, he sought to shift the focus to what he said his administration had done for minority-owned businesses and the broader communities in Illinois.
“We have changed the dynamic in the state,” the governor said. “Before I became governor, Illinois had the highest unemployment rate for African-Americans of any state in the U.S. We now no longer are in that category. We’re growing jobs here, across the state.”
He added, “We want to create more economic empowerment in the black community and the Latino community, and we’re making great progress.”
The WBEZ investigation also found men far outnumber women in Rauner’s cabinet and among his board appointments.
When pressed about whether his own administration would be more diverse than Rauner’s, Democratic gubernatorial challenger JB Pritzker said he would do better than the incumbent, by appointing the most diverse state government ever. But asked if he could promise that his high-level appointments would reflect the state’s overall population, Pritzker would only say it would be his “goal” to have a cabinet and boards that mirror the diversity of Illinois.
As of July 1, 2017, the people of Illinois were 61.3 percent white, 17.3 Hispanic, 14.6 percent black, and 5.7 percent Asian, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Pritzker faces a new discrimination lawsuit from black and Latino campaign workers. He has denied those charges and said 45 percent of his campaign staffers are people of color.
The Rauner campaign has declined to give a racial breakdown of its staff.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him at @dmihalopoulos.
In the interest of transparency, Chicago Public Media (CPM) reminds its audience that we receive philanthropic support from The Pritzker Foundation. JB Pritzker, who is a candidate for Illinois governor, is not involved in The Pritzker Foundation and does not contribute to it. He and his wife lead a separate philanthropic foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation, from which CPM has never received any funding.