Unions, Dems Back Third-Party Conservative Candidate to Split Illinois GOP Gubernatorial Vote

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to lawmakers after delivering the State of the Budget Address on Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

An Illinois union hates Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) so much it put up $150,000 to bankroll a third-party candidate to split the Republican vote come November.

The labor group’s animosity hit a fever pitch when Rauner filed suit to stop unions from forcing public employees paying fees to unions that represent them in collective bargaining, even if they weren’t union members. Mark Janus, a state-employed child support specialist, became the plaintiff in the suit when Rauner was removed as plaintiff by a judge for lack of standing.

The Supreme Court ruled in Janus’, and Rauner’s, favor on June 27.

“This ruling is pro-worker and pro-taxpayer,” Rauner said. “State employees — union and non-union — do tremendous work for the people of Illinois. This ruling is a great victory for our democracy, our public employees, and the taxpayers who count on us to bargain on their behalf.”

Daniel DiSalvo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said the decision could affect union fees collected from 5 million people across 22 states. That’s a lot of dues money the unions will lose, and, as President Trump tweeted, a “big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”

Grabbing his container of salt to rub into that wound, Gov. Rauner opened a state-government website that explained how public-sector employees could pull out of unions and stop paying dues.

Union leaders and Democrats went ballistic.

“The fight is far from over,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, who has received early, strong support from Illinois unions. ”The vast majority of people in Illinois know this decision is bad for them.”

Labor unions in Illinois spent more than $10 million to stop Rauner from becoming Illinois’ governor in 2014. That didn’t work out, so now they have a new strategy.

“This governor has proven that he’s antithetical to what most people believe in. It is not hard to get our members motivated,” Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery told Politico.

But instead of just rallying the faithful who would be more than happy to vote for whoever is running against Rauner, union leaders who usually support Democrats crossed party lines and go after Republican votes. But they aren’t going to try to persuade GOPers to vote for Pritzker.

They’ve recruited a third-party candidate — a conservative — to run for governor and cut into Rauner’s Republican support.

That candidate is Illinois Sen. Sam McCann, a pro-union Republican who has voted against Rauner in the past on labor issues and who, Politico reported, survived a multi-million dollar attempt by the governor to defeat him in a local primary.

So McCann, now running for governor as a candidate of the Conservative Party, has an ax to grind against Rauner, too.

“When I announced I was not going to run for Senate, I said the Republican Party under (Gov. Bruce) Rauner was unrecognizable to me,” McCann said in a release. “Rauner has smeared the reputations of proven conservatives and abandoned the principles that millions of Illinois working families hold dear: economic liberty, traditional values, and law and order.”

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 paid $60,000 and put its members on the streets to help McCann collect enough petition signatures to get on the November ballot, in addition to $50,000 the union, which endorsed Pritzker for governor, had already given the McCann campaign.

“If Republicans were to win in this election, it will be with McCann, not with Rauner. We cannot take four more years of Bruce Rauner,” said IUOE Local 150 President James McSweeney.

Pritzker said he welcomed “another voice to the race for governor.” Indeed he does, and the McCann candidacy could hurt Rauner. McCann could steal GOP votes from Rauner in areas of Illinois that he had to win to take the 2014 governor’s election.

But the editorial board of the News-Gazette wrote the McCann candidacy was nothing but a case of “politicians once again trying to pull a fast one on voters.”

“Unfortunately, the proof is contained in financial-disclosure reports, subsequently reported by the news media, that many people do not follow,” the News-Gazette concluded. “But the numbers show that Sam’s a sham who’s willingly offered his services as a conservative in sheep’s clothing to help elect the liberal Pritzker in the fall election.”

Ed Maher, a spokesman for Local 150 of the Union of Operating Engineers, disagreed with the notion that, as the News-Gazette headlined its op-ed, “McCann is a McFraud.”

“He’s been a senator,” Maher said. “He’s a legitimate candidate.”

Maher told the State Journal-Register the union’s membership was split about 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and GOPers who didn’t want to vote for Rauner “still have to have a place to vote.”