State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, touted an endorsement Wednesday from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, further looking to educators to help carry his primary election campaign for governor.
"They're a motivated voting group this time around," Dillard said.
Winnetka Republican Bruce Rauner has loudly criticized "government union bosses" in his own campaign, making Dillard's newest endorsement -- and his recent backing from the Illinois Education Association -- a major wedge between the two.
Dillard's teachers union backing so far has included a $50,000 check for his cash-strapped campaign, though that amount pales in comparison to Rauner's TV ad spending.
Rauner gave his campaign $1.3 million earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Illinois' AFL-CIO on Wednesday lodged an ethics complaint against Rauner with the state's executive inspector general, arguing Rauner should have to stop giving his campaign money immediately.
The union argues Rauner's investment firm, GTCR, has done business with the state managing pension funds, and state law doesn't allow contractors to give to candidates who could award contracts if elected.
In this case, Rauner is both the contractor and, if elected governor, would be responsible for most state contracts.
Rauner's camp dismissed the move as desperation.
"It's clear that Pat Quinn's allies are now beyond the point of desperation," Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in a statement. "The complaint fails on its face and is conceptually ridiculous."
The retired teachers group includes about 36,000 and pointed to Dillard's vote against a package of steep pension benefit cuts as a key reason to support him.
"This is the first time we've endorsed any gubernatorial candidate," President Bob Pinkerton said.
In picking up backing from teachers, Dillard references his late father's career as a high school history teacher in Hinsdale. His father died the weekend before the primary election in 2010, where state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington narrowly beat Dillard to win the nomination.
Rauner, Dillard, Brady and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa will meet in a debate this evening that will be televised on ABC 7.