Though hardly one of the area's big money races, recent financial support for the two 54th House District candidates have it shaping up to be a contest between a business-backed Republican incumbent and a union-backed Democratic challenger.
Freshman state Rep. Tom Morrison, a small-business owner from Palatine spending a fraction of what he did two years ago, has received contributions mostly from large companies, professional associations and commerce-related PACs. Donors include Illinois BankPac and Illinois Chamber PAC, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Rudd, a union carpenter making his first run at elected office, has received contributions from more than a dozen Chicago-area unions representing his own trade, millwrights and sheet metal workers.
In all, Rudd, also from Palatine, has raised a little more than $10,000 since July 1 while spending about $3,300 on signs, buttons and his website.
He believes campaigns should be publicly financed with candidates getting the same amount of money to shorten the election cycle and level the playing field.
"Money corrupts," Rudd said. "If elections were publicly funded, legislators could actually work at legislating and not fundraising."
Morrison has raised about $16,000 in the same time span, including $9,000 in the past two weeks. Education reform PAC Stand for Children Illinois gave $5,000. He started the period with $20,000 cash on hand.
Morrison's expenditures so far have been limited to office space and about $3,000 in promotional items. His campaign committee has spent more than three times that supporting other suburban Republican candidates, including Ramiro Juarez, David McSweeney and John Lawson in the 44th, 52nd and 56th House District races.
Morrison said that while his is a cynical view, he doesn't believe any amount of campaign finance reform will close loopholes and thinks the emphasis instead should be on transparency.
Overall, the money spent in the district this election cycle is just a fraction of what it was a couple years ago when Morrison defeated former longtime state Rep. Suzie Bassi in the GOP primary and Democrat Matt Flamm in the general election. In the second half of 2010, he raised about $46,000 and spent $57,000.
Morrison, who called his recent donations to other candidates part of an effort to get a Republican majority in the House, said he runs his district office on lean resources and depends on dedicated volunteers.
He also thinks his constituents are happy with the job he's doing.
"If a legislator is doing his or her job well, then you don't have to make a really strong case with a lot of campaign mail," Morrison said. "Two years ago I had opponents who spent a lot more money and I had to match that. So far, I haven't been attacked."
The 54th House District includes portions of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Inverness, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Rolling Meadows.