Despite Illinois’ Democratic tilt, labor unions have had to come out in force to help incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn against Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.
The Associated Press reports that Republicans hope to exploit the deep economic problems and reputation for cronyism within the state to help complete an almost full sweep of the Midwest.
Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee told the AP the party sees Illinois as a great opportunity to give the president and the Democrat party “a real gut punch.”
With this push by Republicans, labor unions have been compelled to ruthlessly attack Rauner and support Quinn. Organized labor was particularly upset with some reputedly anti-union comments Rauner made early in the campaign, seeing them as a sign he would try to curtail government unions the way Gov. Scott Walker did in Wisconsin.
Despite Rauner toning down on his attacks on union since the primary, labor groups have continued spending millions to defeat him.
Short and other Republicans say winning this election would send a clear message that even voters in resident Barack Obama’s home state no longer embrace his policies.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second ranking Democrat, disagrees that this election is a referendum on the president’s agenda, but does acknowledge that if Quinn loses some will see it that way.
Rauner has also challenged Quinn on his claims that he cleaned up state government after taking over for imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“I can’t be bought, bribed or intimidated,” Rauner told the Associated Press.
Beyond labor unions, many prominent Democrats have come out in support of Quinn. The president came to Chicago earlier this month to campaign for Quinn before rallying volunteers at a campaign field office. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and both Clintons tried to help the Quinn campaign as well.
The AP reports that Rauner has spent $25 million for his own campaign’s ads criticizing Quinn for the state’s vast budget problems and a plan to make a temporary income tax increase permanent.
The 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election will be held Tuesday.
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