Hoping to sweep up some of the state’s conservative vote, Downstate state Sen. Sam McCann on Monday filed nominating petitions to challenge Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Monday marks the deadline to file nominating petitions for independent and third-party candidates with the Illinois State Board of Elections — with a 25,000 signature requirement. And even though no third-party candidate has won the race for governor, McCann’s inclusion could throw a wrench into Rauner’s numbers should McCann’s name appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Several Libertarian Party candidates filed nearly double the required number for signatures for statewide positions, including Kash Jackson, an Antioch man hoping to run for governor. If he makes it to the ballot, his name will appear as “Jackson, Grayson Kash formerly known as Benjamin Adam Winderweedle until name changed on Aug. 29, 2017.”
It’ll be an uphill battle for McCann, R-Plainview, who would have to raise some major cash should he survive a ballot challenge. His $292,000 cash on hand pales next to the $39.3 million Rauner has in his campaign war chest.
Votes for McCann could prove to be hurtful to Rauner — so any monetary support for McCann could be constituted as a way to boost Pritzker. Asked whether the Rauner campaign is concerned about McCann’s entry to the race and whether there’s a plan to run attack ads, the campaign said simply, “Our campaign is focused on defeating JB Pritzker.”
McCann, who is running as the “Conservative Party” candidate, delivered more than 60,000 signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections in Springfield, according to his campaign. That’s 35,000 more than are required, but under state law, signatures for McCann that were gathered by people who circulated petitions for partisan candidates in the March primary won’t count.
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McCann has the support of the Operating Engineers Union Local 150, who will likely play a big role in his campaign. And union spokesman Ed Maher on Monday said the union was “very clear” about telling those circulating petitions that they would not be eligible if they had circulated for major party candidates in the primary.
“They had to be very conscious of anyone who had passed petitions for a major party,” Maher said. “That said, the campaign has put a great deal of effort in reviewing the petitions and are extremely confident that they’ll be well above the threshold.”
Jim Sweeney is president-business manager of the union, which last year invested in an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times.
McCann said in a statement that voters are “crying out for a change from Governor Rauner’s failed leadership.” His campaign said he’s running against Rauner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker “to halt Illinois’ departure from law and order, economic liberty, and traditional conservative policies.”
McCann is hoping to continue the momentum conservative voters found in state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ candidacy. Ives lost to Rauner by just 3 percentage points even though she was vastly outspent. The goal is to speak to Ives’ supporters who were angered by the governor’s support of a bill to expand taxpayer funding of abortion; a measure that allows transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates and another that limits law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
While McCann may be seeking Ives’ supporters, the Wheaton lawmaker isn’t actively campaigning for McCann.
“My efforts will be focused on taking Mike Madigan out as Speaker and helping to elect conservative reform House members aligned with my policy principles,” Ives told the Sun-Times on Monday.
But a Republican lawmaker who backed Ives in the primary said he’ll vote for Rauner.
“Despite Governor Rauner’s disappointing record, I’m going to vote for him because he’s the Republican nominee,” state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said. “I respect Senator McCann and applaud his vote last year against the 32 percent increase in the Illinois income tax rate.”
When McCann announced he’d run in April, Rauner’s campaign slammed the decision, while Pritzker cheered, eager to widen the rift between the conservatives and more moderate Republicans that surfaced in the primary.
In a lengthy announcement video, McCann said he’s running because Rauner and Chicago Democrats “have led our state down the wrong path — higher taxes, backward morals and disrespect for the rule of law.”
McCann said the state has become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and that the rights of gun owners are under attack. Illinois needs a governor “who will support our federal government to deport illegal immigrants,” he said.
McCann survived a brutal 2016 primary challenge by a candidate backed by Rauner after McCann crossed swords with the governor on an important vote involving the state’s contract with AFSCME employees.
McCann, whose district is home to many state workers, said he was voting for his district.
McCann’s 2016 victory gave him a degree of independence from Rauner, which he put on full display by being the only Senate Republican to vote to override the governor’s veto of school funding legislation last year that Rauner contended was a Chicago bailout.
McCann’s running mate is Aaron Merreighn, whom he calls a veterans’ rights activist.