State Watch

Dems meddle against Illinois governor ahead of GOP primary

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CHICAGO — A conservative state representative mounting a long-shot bid against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is getting some unexpected help from Democrats.
Just days before Illinois voters head to the polls in next week’s primary election, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) launched a new advertisement labeling state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R) as “too conservative for Illinois.”
“Meet Jeanne Ives. She’s been rated as one of the most conservative in the state,” the DGA advertisement says. The ad ties Ives to President Trump on immigration, cites her high ratings with the National Rifle Association and her opposition to abortion rights.
The advertisement has all the appearances of a negative spot, but coming right before a Republican primary, it might as well be a positive spot meant to introduce Ives to GOP voters fed up with Rauner.
The DGA is spending $337,000 on the advertisement, according to Advertising Analytics, an independent firm that tracks the ad market. That’s not much compared with the nearly $12 million Rauner has already spent on advertising, though it could make a difference with some Republican voters. {mosads}
The DGA also rolled out a new ad against Rauner, though they are spending far less on that spot than they are on the spot meant to introduce Ives to Republican voters.
The tactic is reminiscent of those of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who used paid advertising in the days and weeks ahead of the 2012 primary to effectively pick her own opponent that year.
McCaskill’s campaign rolled out three late advertisements attacking each of the three main Republican candidates — businessman John Brunner, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Rep. Todd Akin. The ads against Brunner and Steelman barely aired, but the spot highlighting Akin’s conservatism, a thinly veiled effort to help his underfunded campaign reach conservative voters, ran in heavy rotation. 
Akin, by far the weakest general election candidate, won the Republican primary by about 37,000 votes. He later made comments about “legitimate rape” during a television interview. McCaskill won reelection by 15 points.
This year, Democrats would much rather face Ives than Rauner, a wealthy businessman who has underwritten his own campaign to the tune of more than $50 million.
There are signs that the incumbent governor isn’t running away with the race for renomination. He angered conservatives by signing a bill to allow the state Medicaid program to cover abortions, then made a public show last week of vetoing a gun control bill.
And on Friday, Rauner’s campaign launched an ad highlighting the DGA’s advertising.
“Liberals are hijacking the Republican primary in Illinois,” the new Rauner spot says.
Sam Salustro, a DGA spokesman, said of the Democratic ads: “Jeanne Ives and Bruce Rauner’s failed policies are a disaster for middle-class Illinois families.” Jared Leopold, the chief DGA spokesman, declined to comment on the strategy behind the anti-Ives advertising.
Democrats have their own competitive primary, though the front-runner is another wealthy businessman, J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker has dumped more than $60 million into his campaign so far, a jaw-dropping sum that sets the race on pace to become the most expensive ever.
Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said the Democratic ad was tantamount to admitting Rauner is the favorite in November.
“The DGA’s efforts to meddle in GOP primaries failed in 2014 and 2016, leading to historic losses, and it appears that the DGA still hasn’t learned from their mistakes,” Thompson said in an email Saturday.
Rauner’s campaign said the advertising was a transparent attempt by Democrats to interfere in the Republican primary. In a statement, campaign spokesman Will Allison tied Ives to Assembly Speaker Mike Madigan (D), a common Rauner foe and the most powerful politician in the state.
“Washington Democrats have teamed up with Mike Madigan’s favorite Republican Jeanne Ives because they know they can’t beat Gov. Rauner in November,” Allison said in a statement. “Gov. Rauner’s message of growing jobs, cutting taxes and rooting out corruption in Illinois has Democrats running scared.”
Kathleen Murphy, a spokeswoman for Ives’s campaign, tied Democrats to Rauner.
“Jeanne Ives wears attacks from the radical left as badges of honor whether they come from leftists at the DGA or the leftist, fake Republican Bruce Rauner,” Murphy said. “The DGA is correct that Illinois is worse off than we were when Rauner was elected, but that’s because Rauner pursued the big-government, tax-borrow-and-spend policies combined with extreme leftist social policies that the DGA otherwise supports.”
Tags Claire McCaskill Donald Trump

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