Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is hoping to score a touchdown with voters, and he’s enlisting the help of former Bears player and coach Mike Ditka.
During Sunday’s Bears game against the Bills, Rauner unveiled his new ad starring “Da Coach,” and also sent out a news release announcing the launching of DitkaTough.com, which redirects to a Rauner fundraiser page. There, supporters can donate a variety of dollar amounts, ranging from $7 at the “touchdown” level to $89 at the “hall of fame” level.
Ditka puts on the full theatrics in the ad.
“You know what I like about you Bruce?” Ditka says to Rauner. “You attack the special interests. Bam! Hit them right in the mouth.”
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This isn’t the first time Ditka has dabbled in Illinois politics.
In 2004, Ditka flirted with launching a U.S. Senate campaign when former investment banker Jack Ryan dropped out after embarassing revelations came out of his divorce filing. However, Ditka opted against a head-to-head matchup against the Democratic candidate, then-state Sen. Barack Obama.
The coach, who has described himself as “ultra-ultra conservative,” wound up endorsing Maryland talk show host Alan Keyes for the seat.
“I support him because he’s a conservative and on the right side of issues I already believe in,” Ditka told reporters in the summer of 2004. “We’re very close philosophically about what we believe, about politics and issues.”
Ditka was quite the fan of Keyes, saying: “Anybody who listened to him speak in the last presidential debates and didn’t understand what the man was saying had to be deaf, because he’s good.”
Asked if he agreed with Keyes’ position that people should be allowed to have machine guns as long as they are properly trained, the coach said: “I’m pretty much in tune with everything he does.”
“I’m going to work my ass off for him; I’m going to raise some money.”
In the 2004 race, Ditka owned a condo here but was not registered to vote in Illinois. But he pledged to do so, so he could vote for Keyes.
“Yeah, I think I can do that.”
Illinois voters didn’t share Ditka’s enthusiasm for Keyes.
Obama won in a landslide in November, nearly 70 percent to 27 percent.
It was not immediately clear Sunday if Ditka was registered to vote for Rauner in the November election.
Years later, Ditka claimed his decision not to run in 2004 was one of his great regrets.
“Biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” Ditka told a Dickinson, North Dakota, reporter last year. “Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and he wouldn’t be in the White House.”