With seven weeks to go before the March 20 primary, the Republican race between state Rep. Kent Gaffney and David McSweeney has gone toxic, all while a third candidate, Danielle Rowe, works to get noticed.
The conflict between the two more experienced candidates last week hit new heights when Gaffney penned an open letter calling for McSweeney to publicly apologize and withdraw his bid for state representative in the 52nd House District, saying his campaign has disgraced the electoral process and the Republican Party.
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"From day one your campaign has been focused on threatening letters that harass citizens and organizations supporting your opponents," Gaffney wrote.
The pair's feud stems from McSweeney's challenge to Gaffney's nominating petitions, an objection ultimately overruled by the Illinois State Board of Elections.
McSweeney, a Barrington Hills financial consultant who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2006, claimed Gaffney wasn't truthful about who circulated his petitions. He hired private investigators who secured 41 affidavits from citizens attesting to as much.
McSweeney, 46, pointed out that the state board of elections invalidated 38 percent of Gaffney's signatures, and said Gaffney showed a pattern of fraud.
In responding to Gaffney's letter, McSweeney countered that his opponent should resign and issued his own statement calling for an apology.
"Rather than taking responsibility for the misdeeds of his paid staffers, (Gaffney) chose to attack the veracity of the affidavits that were collected and thus questioned the veracity of the signers of those affidavits," McSweeney wrote.
Gaffney, 45, of Lake Barrington, was appointed to the contested House seat last year after Republican Rep. Mark Beaubien died. He previously served on the Illinois House budget staff and as an aide to Beaubien.
Like Gaffney, Danielle Rowe, 39, survived a petition challenge by McSweeney. The state board overruled his objection, which targeted signatures as being from unregistered voters and residents living outside of the 52nd District.
Rowe, a political newcomer from Island Lake, is a Tea Party candidate who works as a marketing executive in Chicago. She dismissed McSweeney's objection as frivolous.
"Mr. McSweeney made a lot of unfounded accusations when he chose to challenge my petitions ... (he) hoped he could bully me out of this race," Rowe said, adding that she looks forward to a spirited campaign.
The 52nd House District covers parts of Barrington, Island Lake, Oakwood Hills, Wauconda, North Barrington, Lake in the Hills, Fox River Grove, Trout Valley, Algonquin, Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Cary and Crystal Lake.