08/11/2014 01:36 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2014

Is Bruce Rauner More of a Reformer Than Gov. Pat Quinn?

From the day he first entered politics, Pat Quinn has made his name on being a reformer. Most famously, Quinn spearheaded a protest against legislative pay raises that led to the 1980 "Cutback Amendment," which cut the size of the Illinois General Assembly by a third.

But a new Chicago Sun-Times/We Ask America poll shows Quinn may face a challenge for his reform crown from his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner. Despite the Quinn campaign's efforts to call the ethics of Rauner's business dealings into question, poll respondents overwhelmingly deemed Rauner the candidate of reform over Quinn. Perhaps more surprising was Rauner's edging Quinn out as the candidate most respondents believed was best in touch with their everyday concerns.

The poll also found Rauner with a 13-point lead when respondents were asked for whom they'd vote if the election were today. That's consistent with a July 28 Reboot Illinois poll also conducted by We Ask America.

Rauner's strong showing on the reform issue - respondents deemed Rauner the reform candidate by a 47-21 margin - may be related to the ongoing controversy over Quinn's $54.5 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program. A federal investigation is under way regarding misuse of public money in that effort. A legislative committee also has begun its own inquiry.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was the subject of a critical op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 8. The Journal noted that the poor handling of the Illinois program was a vivid contrast to other, similar programs in U.S. cities.

"Perhaps no government program could save Chicago, but the NRI's failure isn't an indictment of antiviolence programs themselves. Rather, it may simply show what happens when funds are distributed haphazardly. Other state and federally funded anticrime programs--such as the federal "Weed and Seed" program in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, or Baltimore's "Safe Streets" program in the 2000s--have proved effective and were characterized by close monitoring and narrow targeting."

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