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Madigan, Rauner disagree on what election results mean — surprise

Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday. Parade Chairman Jim Coyne is on the left. File Photo by James Foster / For Sun-Times Media

The two legislative races that were essentially a battle between House Speaker Mike Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner are over — but on Wednesday the two adversaries, not surprisingly, disagreed on what that means.

Madigan said his own victory and the defeat of state Rep. Ken Dunkin signify that voters want someone who will “stand up for middle-class families” and not someone “aligned” with Rauner’s belief in how government should be run.

But Rauner’s spokesman said the results show how far Madigan will go to crush any Democrat who dares to “show a hint of independent thinking” — and called on the speaker “to end his month long vacation” and work with Rauner to enact the very “structural reforms” that Madigan says voters rejected.

Madigan’s statement is his first since trouncing

Jason Gonzales, a Democrat who secured the backing of many Republicans and Rauner supporters and raised more than $100,000 for his primary challenge to Madigan on the speaker’s Southwest Side turf.

Gonzales drew just 27.6 percent of the votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting, with Madigan drawing 64.6 percent.

“Yesterday, voters in the Democratic primary election made it very clear they want representatives in the State Capitol who will stand up for middle-class families, children and the elderly, not turn their backs on them,” Madigan said, adding voters rejected a candidate who received financial support from a number of Republicans.

Farther east, in the hotly contested 5th District, newcomer Juliana Stratton — a former aide to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – beat Dunkin 68 percent to his 32 percent. The contest shattered campaign spending records and even saw President Barack Obama endorsing Stratton — an unusual move for the president.

But the money signified a much larger struggle between Rauner and Madigan, who have been unable to agree upon a state budget.

Dunkin twice withheld votes that would have handed Rauner defeats in a struggle over the state budget and the governor’s Turnaround Agenda. After that, Democrats decided it was time for another candidate.

Dunkin received a whopping $1.3 million in campaign contributions from Rauner-affiliated political action committees, with an additional $2.5 million spent by outside groups. Stratton, director for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Public Safety and Justice, took in $1.8 million, mostly from labor unions.

“Voters in the 5th Representative District clearly were unhappy with Ken Dunkin’s record, how he turned his back on the elderly, children and families struggling to make ends meet, his failure to follow through on promises he made, and his association with Bruce Rauner and the governor’s allies,” Madigan said in a statement Wednesday.

Madigan said the state’s gridlock isn’t a difference in political parties, but “from the governor’s insistence that we focus on his agenda attacking middle-class families, rather than making the budget deficit his priority.”

SEIU Healthcare Illinois also linked Tuesday’s Dunkin defeat to a defeat for the governor.

“Tuesday was a stunning rejection of the divisive checkbook politics of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who flooded the state with an unprecedented amount of unaccountable dark money that was meant to overwhelm the interests of the working families of Illinois,” SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Keith Kelleher said in a statement.

Rauner and his administration have criticized Madigan for taking a “month-long” break between House sessions. They have been urging Madigan to return to Springfield to help enact a budget.

They repeated those calls on Wednesday.

“There were many races last night where special interests backed by Speaker Madigan failed to defeat Republican incumbents and candidates who support Governor Rauner’s call for structural reforms that grow our economy alongside a balanced budget,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

“Even in a Democratic primary, the Speaker needed to call in the President of the United States to defeat one legislator who dared to show a hint of independent thinking. But the primary elections are over and rather than issuing partisan press releases, the Speaker needs to end his month long vacation and begin working with the Governor to enact a balanced budget alongside structural reforms that grow our economy.”

The House last held a session on March 2, and will return on April 4. Madigan’s office has said the break was previously scheduled and is common during a primary election year.