In the end, Mike Zolnierowicz had only one choice. Governor Bruce Rauner’s top political lieutenant and former chief of staff, the man everyone calls “Z” who was most responsible for winning the 2014 Republican primary, simply had to resign late in the afternoon on Friday, July 14.
The week began with the early-Monday firing of Richard Goldberg, Z’s close friend and hand-picked successor as Rauner’s chief of staff. Rumors had circulated for months that First Lady Diana Rauner had turned on Goldberg and wanted him out, and in the previous few weeks it was known among a select few that the governor had been calling around looking for a possible replacement, including calling a couple of people in Indiana who declined the offer.
But Z and others were caught totally off-guard when Goldberg was abruptly fired and not offered a position in the vast campaign apparatus that Z had constructed. Rauner had not only made a major decision without consulting Z, his supposedly number-one guy; he had also needlessly kicked Goldberg to the curb.