Democrat J.B. Pritzker and “Conservative Party” candidate Sam McCann now have the endorsement of the Operating Engineers Union Local 150 in the governor’s race, which says it included the Downstate senator so that conservative union members won’t vote for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner or sit out the election entirely.

The union’s support for McCann is largely viewed as a way to steer votes away from Rauner, who has been dubbed one of the most vulnerable governors in the country.

But McCann, union spokesman Ed Maher says, has proven his worth to the union.

“He went to war with Bruce Rauner over Rauner’s attack on AFSCME. Time and time again he’s demonstrated that he is supportive of unions, of the middle class,” Maher said.

Asked if support for McCann, both monetarily and in the endorsement, is meant to bolster him as a “spoiler” — a way to take votes away from Rauner, Maher said “there is more to it than that.”

Maher said half of the union’s members are Republican.

“Many of them will not vote for a Democratic candidate, and so that will leave Bruce Rauner or sitting out the election,” Maher said. The reason that we’ve been supportive of McCann’s efforts to get on the ballot and the reason that we’re supportive of him as a candidate is because we want our members who are Republicans or conservative to have an option to vote for a governor that isn’t going to vote against their union.”

The union also went to bat for Republican Judy Baar Topinka in 2006 when she ran against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The union already helped McCann get on the ballot by circulating his petitions.

As for Pritzker, union officials say they support his strong views against right-to-work, backing of strong prevailing wage policies and in his push for infrastructure investments.

J.B. Pritzker and Susana Mendoza at a news conference

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza at a news conference earlier this year. File photo. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

The union voted to endorse both candidates at a semi-annual member meeting over the weekend. The union represents 23,000 men and women in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa in various industries including construction, public works, concrete pumping, among others.

McCann, R-Plainview, entered the race in late June, hoping to pick up the pieces of a splintered conservative party in a state that saw Rauner win the primary by just 3 percentage points over State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton.

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 in late June said simply, “Our campaign is focused on defeating JB Pritzker.”

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.

Editor’s note: Some organized-labor groups have ownership stakes in Sun-Times Media, including the Chicago Federation of Labor; Construction and General Labors District Council of Chicago and Vicinity; Operating Engineers Local 150; SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and SEIU Local 1.