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Madigan court foe Gonzales backs Pritzker, says speaker and Rauner must go

Then Democratic state House candidate Jason Gonzalesin 2016. File Photo. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Then Democratic state House candidate Jason Gonzalesin 2016. File Photo. | Mark Brown/Sun-Times

The man suing Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan in federal court for allegedly helping to put  “sham” candidates on the ballot says he’s no plant of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner — and he’s actually a supporter of Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

“I think he would be a great governor for our state going forward but we also can’t forget the Madigan problem,” Gonzales told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s been in there for 45 years. He’s helped to facilitate the situation that we’re in now which is a mess.”

And now Jason Gonzales says he won’t fight Madigan’s lawyers call for depositions by Rauner and other key Republican allies, saying he has nothing to hide.

Madigan’s attorneys on Friday filed exhibits in U.S. District Court to show that Blair Hull — a millionaire investor who made a failed Democratic run for the U.S. Senate — emailed Rauner’s assistant to provide an update on Gonzales’ 2016 campaign. Hull helped create the PAC Illinois United for Change, which in 2016 helped to fund ads and mailers that either helped Gonzales or criticized Madigan.

Madigan’s team is seeking to show why Hull and Rauner should be deposed in the case, and to try to link that back to one of their defense strategies: trying to show that Gonzales was a “closet Republican.”

Gonzales’ team is hoping to prove that Madigan put up two “sham” candidates with Latino names to try to split the Hispanic vote in the March 2016 Democratic primary. Madigan beat Gonzales 65.2 percent to 27.1 percent. The other two candidates received a combined 7.8 percent.

Madigan attorneys also included an August 2016 email from Illinois Policy Institute head John Tillman — sent to Rauner’s assistant, his “body man” at the time and Illinois first lady Diana Rauner — which in length includes information about the anti-Madigan documentary “Madigan: Power, Privilege, Politics.” Gonzales was listed as a “potential expert” to be featured in the documentary and ultimately did appear in it.

Despite Gonzales’ attorneys this week arguing against requiring depositions of Rauner and many of the governor’s former GOP allies and former staffers, Gonzales on Friday told the Sun-Times he’ll no longer fight against having those people deposed. The list includes a Who’s Who of political operatives and former campaign and staff employees, including Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and former Rauner campaign adviser Nick Ayers.

Clockwise from top left: Then House candidate Jason Gonzales in 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times; Gov. Bruce Rauner in June. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Speaker of the House Mike Madigan. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Then Democratic Senate candidate Blair Hull in 2003. | Scott Stewart/Sun-Times; House GOP leader Jim Durkin in February. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Illinois Policy Institute Chairman John Tillman in June. | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik.

Clockwise from top left: Then House candidate Jason Gonzales in 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times; Gov. Bruce Rauner in June. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Speaker of the House Mike Madigan. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Then Democratic Senate candidate Blair Hull in 2003. | Scott Stewart/Sun-Times; House GOP leader Jim Durkin in February. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Illinois Policy Institute Chairman John Tillman in June. | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik.

“The reason I’ve asked them to withdraw is because I have nothing to hide,” Gonzales said of his request to have the depositions move forward.

Gonzales said the governor “had nothing to do with my race.”

“He had nothing to do with it. What he’s telling is true. He’s never met me. I’ve never had an interaction with him,” Gonzales said of the governor.

Asked this week about the lawsuit, Rauner said he’s “never spoken with him, never had an interaction” with Gonzales.

Gonzales said he’s not a plant and is simply an independent Democrat. He says Rauner “has to go,” and is behind Pritzker’s efforts to take over the governor’s office.

The Pritzker campaign on Friday declined to comment on Gonzales’ support.

Democratic nominee for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker | Max Herman /Chicago Sun-Times

Democratic nominee for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker | Max Herman /Chicago Sun-Times

Gonzales says he hopes the case will prove that Madigan puts up sham candidates: “I don’t think he’s going to come out and admit that he puts people in but we want to create a paper trial where we can get people that will start to come forward.”

Gonzales called Madigan’s tactics in his race “brutal” and “illegal.” He said he hopes the case will prove he violated the Voting Rights Act, and he wants to see conspiracy charges against the speaker.

“It’s not a criminal trial obviously. I wish that it was but it’s not. But still, I think any kind of civil counts against him or any of his affiliate organizations would certainly help to get people understanding that Speaker Madigan has got to go,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’ attorneys this week claimed Madigan’s deposition wish list is just about gaining “political intelligence” about the Madigan documentary in order to use it against Rauner in the November election.

The Tillman pitch email filed by Madigan’s team shows the documentary’s budget was $950,000. It also shows some of Tillman’s marketing strategies for the documentary, including developing radio segments, syndicated columns and Facebook and Google ads.

Tillman’s email subject was “Madigan work and timeline — fyi only but important.” He wrote in the email that he had raised about $600,000 for the documentary and “this is not a funding request to be clear.”

Rauner was asked about the documentary in September 2016. “Was the Madigan film your idea or Tillman’s idea? Did you discuss it with him?” a reporter asked.

Rauner laughed and said, “I have not.”

“I’ve heard as much about this film or whatever it is. I don’t even know what it is. I’ve heard about as much as you have. I don’t know anything about it,” Rauner said.

He was also asked if he had spoken to Tillman about it: “I have not. I heard about it when you did.”

Other emails the Madigan team included ones Gonzales sent to Hull, providing updates to his federal case.

“We will get Mike Madigan, one way or another,” Gonzales wrote in an June 22, 2017 email. In another, he wrote to Hull, “we can’t get rid of Madigan without you.” In an October 2017 email, Gonzales thanked Hull for his support in the case and said he believed they had a “great shot at finding even more dirt” on Madigan. And an invoice shows that Hull is helping to pay for Gonzales’ legal costs.

A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday.

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