Rauner, Madigan proxy war on display in Congressional races

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CHICAGO — Illinois Democrats and Republicans are at war. The generals leading the battle: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

The battlefield is at the ballot box in mostly suburban and Downstate House and Senate districts. All 118 Illinois House seats and 40 of the 59 Senate seats are on the ballot.

In this campaign, Republicans tied state Democratic candidates to Madigan while Democrats linked GOP politicians to Rauner and Donald Trump.

The showdown has cost upwards of $50 million. Sixteen legislative races have topped $2 million in spending.

“I remember back in the day when you had a big race it was $300,000, and now, when you look at some of the very top, and you’re looking at spending through the end of October, over $4.5 million,” said Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson.

This epic fight is over Rauner’s pro-business, union-weakening agenda. The governor wants to makes changes to workers compensation and curb collective bargaining rules.

The parties are also waring over Michael Madigan power. Since 1983, Madigan has served as Speaker for all but two years.

Madigan and Democrats have veto power over Governor Rauner’s agenda thanks to their supermajority, controlling 71 House seats and 39 Senate seats.

The governor’s goal is to strip Madigan of his power by eroding his majority.

“Rauner has put in about more 90 percent of the money that’s gone into the Illinois Republican Party. More than $21 million and that money is then funneled down into many of these legislative races,” Pearson said.

In the Rauner/Madigan war, there have been casualties. Illinois finances are in disarray. The state spends more money than it takes in. For a year and a half, Illinois has operated without a budget. And because of politics, regardless of Tuesday night’s electoral outcome, a budget deal remains unlikely.

“I think it’s highly unlikely we’re going to get a settlement,” Pearson said. “I think it’s more likely we’re going to be back to where we were running all the way through till the 2018 election.”

The state has been floating along thanks to a stopgap budget passed this summer. But that’s set to expire next month. The results in Tuesday night’s state House and Senate races are just one round in a fight that will likely last for two more years.

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