Rauner attended a picnic on Saturday afternoon sponsored by the ABATE Motorcycle Club, of which he's been a member since 2008. There, he shook hands with a man wearing a jacket with a confederate flag patch on the right arm with the words "fighting terrorism since 1861."
"When I'm out meeting with voters, I can't always control who I shake hands and who's in which crowd," Rauner said.
Several top Illinois Democrats, including Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White and Congress members Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowski, are demanding an apology. They wrote, "It is shocking to see Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner warmly embracing a supporter wearing the Confederate flag."
"I certainly don't condone the Confederate flag. I support the American flag," Rauner said.
"As I was told as a child, you are judged by your associates and judged by to whom you choose to associate," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said.
Governor Pat Quinn is trying to hold on to his democratic party's traditional strong support among African-Americans. Rauner says he won't not concede any group.
Hermene Hartman is the publisher of N'Digo Magazine and a supporter of Rauner.
"For the political powers to come after Bruce in that regard I think is kind of silly," she said. She believes the focus should be on lack of jobs and quality education. "Let's not play racial politics to the point of being stupid."