By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network
(ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK) – Gov. Bruce Rauner shouldn’t be worried only about Democratic rival J.B. Pritzker in the four-way race for the governor’s mansion.
A political expert says that Thursday’s NBC 5 forum has convinced him that third-party candidate Sam McCann could be a problem for the first-term incumbent.
The gubernatorial forum took a heated turn when Rauner accused former Republican McCann, a state senator from Plainview, of being a plant of House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“You said you had no social agenda and all you’ve been able to accomplish is to make yourself the most progressive liberal governor the state of Illinois has ever had,” McCann said, to which Rauner shot back with arguably his most pointed line of the night.
“Mr. McCann, are you getting paid on a per-interruption basis by Madigan or in a lump sum?” the governor asked.
Rauner has been criticized by conservatives for signing into law legislation that allows for taxpayer funding of elective abortions by state workers and individuals on Medicaid.
Associate professor Nick Kachiroubas from DePaul University’s School of Public Service said Rauner has a real problem with the McCann serving as a hurdle in solidifying a pro-Trump base that the governor needs to beat Pritzker.
“Seeing the way he was attacking Gov. Rauner and the way he was positioning him against the Trump administration, McCann – for good or for bad – spoke directly to those people,” Kachiroubas said.
Although he’s a member of the newly-formed Conservative Party, McCann’s funding comes almost entirely from labor unions that have close ties to Illinois Democrats. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCann’s campaign, but endorsed Pritzker for governor.
McCann was even asked by the forum moderator if he was placed in the race to foil Rauner. McCann said he was in the race to win.
The election is Nov. 6.