Editorial | Rauner has two election foes

Editorial | Rauner has two election foes

A third-party candidate for governor isn't really running to win.

Politics is about addition and subtraction, adding votes to one side of the ledger and removing them from the other.

That's why Democrats were pleased this week when renegade Republican state Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview announced that he's running for governor as a third-party candidate and billing himself as the "conservative" in the race.

McCann has zero chance of winning. But almost every vote he gets will be a protest vote against incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and, consequently, a de facto vote for Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

No wonder Pritzker was delighted that McCann entered the race.

"I welcome another voice to the race for governor at this critical time for our state," Pritzker said in a statement issued by his campaign.

Rauner responded with disgust to McCann's move, denouncing McCann as "the worst kind of political opportunist who is running for governor to line his own pockets."

Indeed, Rauner's statement was so strong that he seemed to go overboard.

"McCann's unethical record speaks for itself: He failed to pay his taxes, racked up massive debts, lied about serving in the Marine Corps and used his campaign account as a personal piggy bank, even buying himself an SUV," Rauner said.

Since this is Illinois, there's already political subterfuge underway.

Public- and private-sector labor unions are a key part of the Democratic Party coalition. That's why they exercise outsized influence in the formation of public policy here, and their enmity for Rauner is not exactly a secret.

While backing Pritzker, one union already is giving financial support to McCann.

Working under the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the International Union of Operating Engineers contributed $50,000 earlier this week to the McCann campaign. Consider it an investment in Pritzker's future.

McCann, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, announced earlier this year that he would not be a candidate for re-election to that body. It's no great loss.

Few Republicans have any influence in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate, and McCann has even less than those who have little. He distinguished himself principally for his vote to overturn Rauner's veto of legislation that would have stripped Rauner of authority to negotiate a contract with state employees and turned that authority over to a third party.

Limited to just one governor (Rauner) for this one negotation (with AFSCME), the bill was part of a Democratic power play to financially reward one of the members of its political coalition at a time when the state is effectively bankrupt. Suffice it to say, it's one of the worst bills the Legislature ever passed. McCann said he voted for it because a large number of his constituents are state employees.

At any rate, that difference of opinion between Rauner and McCann set the stage for what has become a bitter feud in which each man has tried to end the political career of the other.

That's what McCann wants out of his proposed campaign for governor, an effect that will require a substantial voter petition effort to qualify for the ballot.

But that shouldn't be a problem. McCann wants to bring Rauner's tenure as governor to an end. So do the Democrats. That's why McCann's candidacy is win-win for these unlikely political allies.

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