According to Winston Churchill, “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at with no result.”
If that’s true, State Sen. Sam McCann (R-Plainview) should have been feeling exhilarated Tuesday night, after surviving a primary election in which he was outspent by his opponent by a margin of more than 3-1.
But McCann looked understandably tired and peeved after withstanding a negative campaign the likes of which has never been seen in downstate Illinois.
McCann had incurred the wrath of Gov. Bruce Rauner by standing with his constituents and supporting a proposal to allow the governor’s contract dispute with AFSCME to be settled by binding arbitration. Since Rauner knows an arbitrator won’t jam state employees the way the governor wants them jammed, he’s strongly opposed.
The governor also didn’t like that McCann was among a group of Republican legislators who signed on to a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in support of the union position on fair share in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The governor had submitted his own brief, in support of Friedrichs.
Because McCann stood with those who elected him, the Republican governor decided to take down one of the General Assembly’s most conservative members by accusing him of, among other things, being “Mike Madigan’s favorite Senator.”
This was among the mistakes the governor and his allies made, displaying a tremendous ignorance about downstate voters. Stating that McCann, who the Tea Party sent to Springfield, is a Madigan ally was a ludicrous charge that made all accusations that followed it very hard to believe.
And there were lots of accusations. District households received oversized postcards attacking McCann every day for weeks; sometimes as many as three in one day’s mail.
According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the governor and his allies spent more than $3.1 million attacking McCann, for a per-vote cost of $179.81.
IEA and other organizations and individuals supporting McCann spent $689,014.53, for a per-vote cost of $35.36.
McCann won 53 percent of the vote.
Rauner and his allies also bet big on Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago). More than $6.1 million was spent to keep the one Democrat who supported Rauner in office (that’s $464 per vote!). But some things just can’t be done, like propping up a Chicago legislator whose opponent is endorsed by the President of the United States.
IEA-recommended candidate Juliana Stratton received nearly 68 percent of the vote (with a per-vote cost of $112).
Bruce Rauner (supported by his billionaire friends) won his own election in large part by convincing voters that, as a businessman, he had the skills and work ethic needed to fix Illinois’ problems.
So far, he’s fixed nothing. In fact, he’s made things worse.
Based on how he supported his candidates, Rauner seems to be one of those politicians who eschews the hard work of organizing and thinks you can fix problems by throwing money at them.
It took hard work by lots of individuals and organizations, including IEA, to win these two elections.
The other side will always have more money. We will always have the people.
And, as the McCann race in particular proves, the people still have a voice that is louder than money.
It will be up to us to sound that voice even louder in November.