URBANA, Ill (WCIA) — Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker praised the newest candidate to jump into the governor’s race during a campaign stop at the University of Illinois on Saturday, calling Republican party defector Sam McCann a “fine human being” and a “public servant.”
“Anybody who raises their hand, and particularly those who recognize that Bruce Rauner has been an utter and complete failure, I of course am glad to see them in the race to amplify that message,” Pritzker said ahead of a meeting with the College Democrats of Illinois.
“The truth is, I share really nothing much in common with Sam McCann on the issues,” Pritzker said. “But I think he is a fine human being and certainly a public servant. So I am glad he has decided to run.”
“Pritzker thinks a guy who lied about being in the Marines and scams his campaign donors is a fine person and public servant,” Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison fired back. “That says a lot about Pritzker and the Chicago Machine’s attempt to use dirty tricks to sway this election.”
McCann’s presence in the race as a Conservative Party candidate threatens to narrow Governor Bruce Rauner’s slim pathway to re-election. In wooing conservative, downstate voters, McCann presents an obstacle preventing Rauner from mending fences with a conservative voter base that has grown frustrated with his willingness to sign bills into law protecting immigrants and expanding abortion access.
Moments after making his campaign announcement official on Thursday, McCann highlighted his downstate credentials before tying the governor to the same “Chicago machine” that Rauner so often reviles.
“What I have seen is that when Chicago Rauner is in the governor’s chair working in concert with that Chicago machine, what we get is worse,” McCann said. “The last three and a half years of Rauner have been worse than the first four years of [former governor Pat] Quinn.”
Casting himself as a reform-minded outsider, Rauner rode to an easy election victory against incumbent Pat Quinn in 2014. He campaigned on a promise to flush the political influence of organized labor out of Springfield, and he won every county in the state outside the Democratic stronghold of Cook County.
Three and a half years later, labor groups are sponsoring McCann’s effort to exact revenge against Rauner. The most recent union to donate to McCann endorsed Pritzker for governor and has been known to fund House Speaker Michael Madigan’s efforts to purge his political rivals from the statehouse. Rauner’s campaign pointed to the labor contribution as evidence McCann was “a pawn being used by Democrats.” The Illinois Republican Party slammed McCann as “the perfect crook to cut a deal with Pritzker and Madigan.”
“Well, Bruce Rauner is a liar,” Pritzker responded on Saturday. “He continues to be a failure as governor. So it is not surprising to me that on day one of Sam McCann’s campaign, he comes out swinging against him and goes negative because that is all he’s got. That is his only shot really at winning the election is to go negative. We have put forward a real program for progress in the state of Illinois, improving the lives of working families, and that is what I am going to focus on.
But was there a coordinated effort to recruit McCann as a conservative attack dog to hobble Rauner?
“Oh no, there was absolutely none,” he said.