Marlen Garcia: Rauner name is a millstone for some candidates

SHARE Marlen Garcia: Rauner name is a millstone for some candidates

Jac Charlier, Illinois House 15th District Democratic primary candidate, had to fight rumors he was secretly tied to Gov. Bruce Rauner. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Gov. Bruce Rauner and his conservative friends threw millions into the primary election without getting the outcomes they wanted. That won’t stop them from doing it again.

But Rauner could help his cause if he learned how to govern and eased up on his heavy-handed demands related to his turnaround agenda.

Independent-minded Chicago Democrats in Tuesday’s lower profile primaries paid dearly for made-up associations to him, leveled by opposition.

Collateral damage could be found in multiple Democratic races, such as the 15th District of the House, which covers the Far Northwest Side and parts of the near northwest suburbs.


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From the outset, Jac Charlier, best known for leading a coalition against O’Hare jet noise, had an uphill climb against incumbent Rep. John D’Amico, whose family reign (it includes the Laurinos) goes back 52 years.

But Charlier had to tamp down rumors that the Rauner crowd backed him and allegations that he was secretly allied with the unpopular governor.

D’Amico supporters “created an entire fiction of positions,” Charlier’s campaign manager, Vasyl Markus, said.

D’Amico won with 60 percent of the vote.

Another Northwest Side race for House, the 40th District, pitted progressive Democrat Harish I. Patel against incumbent Rep. Jaime Andrade, who came up through the 33rd Ward Democratic organization under former Ald. Dick Mell.

As the political blog Capitol Fax pointed out last month, Patel was besieged by mailers accusing him of receiving “assistance from a secretive group that received $9 million from only six multi-millionaires and was created to help support Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s reckless agenda that is hurting the elderly, disabled children, and middle-class families.”

Patel insisted they were lies. Andrade won 59 percent of the vote.

“The Rauner name is so tarnished in Chicago that the House Democrats are even using it against an ultra-liberal candidate,” the blogger, Rich Miller, wrote.

Another young newcomer to politics, Angelica Alfaro, had backing from charter school supporters in her bid to fill the seat of retiring Sen. William Delgado in the 2nd District on the Northwest Side. She is a staff member for the highly regarded Noble Network of Charter Schools. So, yes, Alfaro and the governor both back charters. It’s a cause near and dear to Rauner’s heart; a Noble charter campus is named for him. But Alfaro did not at all strike me as someone who would break from Democrats on core party issues. Nevertheless, the indirect tie to Rauner hurt her. She lost to Omar Aquino, backed by the Chicago Teachers Union.

“We were going against a Rauner Democrat, and people knew that,” Aquino told me late Tuesday night.

Forest Park Commissioner Chris Harris, who challenged Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside in the 7th District and lost, had to disavow advertising purchased on his behalf by conservative radio host Dan Proft through Proft’s PAC. Harris called it wrong-headed for the governor’s people to insert themselves in a Democratic primary.

Rauner has been declared a big loser in the primary because of losses dealt to candidates backed heavily by him or his millionaire friends: Democrats Ken Dunkin and Jason Gonzales lost by wide margins in Chicago; downstate Republican Bryce Benton couldn’t knock out incumbent Sam McCann despite campaigning with Rauner.

The governor needs to realize that in Chicago his negative impact went much deeper.


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