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Illinois comptroller race now Teresi vs. Mendoza — or Rauner & Griffin vs. Madigan?

It’s been nearly a year since Mike Madigan left the Illinois political stage, but the once powerful Southwest Side Democrat remains a major GOP campaign theme. Republican Shannon Teresi launched her bid for comptroller with more mentions of Madigan than Democratic rival Susana Mendoza.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, left; McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi, right.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, left; McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi, right.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times; shannonteresi.com

McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi on Wednesday became the latest Republican to throw her hat in the ring for statewide office, announcing her campaign against Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

But like other Illinois Republicans, Teresi is just as eager to talk about former state House Speaker Mike Madigan.

The first issue listed on her campaign website?

A pledge to “end the Madigan machine’s personal piggy bank.”

On the web page touting Teresi’s qualifications and achievements, Madigan is mentioned three times. Mendoza is not mentioned once.

In the release announcing her candidacy, Teresi, who has served as McHenry County auditor since 2018, touted her experience as a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner and pledged to bring transparency to state government.

“That’s what I promise to bring to the office of Comptroller: open communication with the taxpayers and an eagle eye to root out the waste, fraud, and abuse our state is plagued by thanks to decades of Madigan Machine politics,” Teresi said in the release, which was shared to her Twitter account and campaign website.

Republican Shannon Teresi
Republican Shannon Teresi.
shannonteresi.com

It’s been nearly a year since Madigan left the Illinois political stage, but the once powerful Southwest Side Democrat remains a major campaign theme for Republicans.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who kicked off his campaign for state treasurer on Tuesday, featured images of the former House speaker and ex-state Democratic Party chairman in his campaign video.

Madigan relinquished his posts as House speaker, state representative and state Democratic Party chair after he was implicated in a bribery scheme in which ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan associates for doing little or no work.

Madigan has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing, but the scandal ended a political career stretching back a half century – and reinflated the Democrat’s role as a GOP punching bag.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan addresses the City Club of Chicago in 2015.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan addresses the City Club of Chicago in 2015.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

But if Republicans are eager to shadow box the spectre of Madigan every chance they get, the Democrats are just as happy to link their GOP rivals to former one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin.

Griffin has vowed to thwart Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reelection plans and is widely believed to be building a slate of Republican candidates to challenge Democrats up and down the ticket. But Griffin has remained mum about whom is choices are — leaving Democrats free to tag anyone they choose.

And the state Democratic Party was quick to do just that with Demmer and Teresi – casting them as pawns or puppets of the state’s richest person.

“Now, Ken Griffin is running the Rauner Reboot, revealing his slate of puppets in a desperate bid to pull Illinois back to the Rauner days of budget impasses and months-long bill backlogs,” Abby Witt, executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, said in a statement after Teresi launched her campaign.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, left; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, center; Hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, right.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, left; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, center; Hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, right.
Sun-Times file photos.

Griffin donated a little over $36 million to Rauner’s campaigns only to see the Republican ousted by Pritzker in 2018.

Pritzker, worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes, pumped a record-breaking $171 million of his personal fortune into that race.

And last November, Griffin said he was “all in to support the candidate who will beat” Pritzker. The hedge-fund billionaire’s return has the potential to turn this year’s contests into another round of high-stakes record breakers.

The founder and CEO of Chicago based Citadel is worth an estimated $26.7 billion, according to Forbes, which ranked him the richest resident of Illinois as recently as last year.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, right, with Ken Raskin, left, owner of Manny’s Deli on Election day, March 20th, 2018.
State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, right, with Ken Raskin, left, owner of Manny’s Deli on Election day, March 20th, 2018.
James Foster/Sun-Times file

Mendoza was first elected in 2016, beating then GOP incumbent Leslie Munger, whom Rauner appointed to the office in early 2015, after the death of Judy Baar Topinka.

Mendoza issued a statement saying, “I welcome all candidates and look forward to talking about my lengthy and historic record of accomplishments.”

“As Illinois’ fiscal watchdog, I’ve implemented historic transparency reforms, led our state to its first credit upgrades in decades, delivered the fastest vendor payment cycle in over 20 years, and paid down our bill backlog by over 75% without using federal stimulus funds - in the middle of a global pandemic,” the Chicago Democrat said.

Teresi did not respond to requests for comment.