A well-funded abortion-rights group is rolling out mailers against state Rep. Peter Breen months before the Lombard Republican defends his seat in November.
Even before the March 20 primary, Personal PAC launched a website last Wednesday criticizing the GOP's House floor leader. The political action committee also has endorsed Terra Costa Howard, a Glen Ellyn Democrat seeking to defeat Breen in the 48th House District.
The group's targeting of Breen could be an indication the issue will loom large over the race. The two-term lawmaker is an attorney for the Thomas More Society, a group that has led a legal fight against a new law expanding abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients. Breen also has rebuked Gov. Bruce Rauner for signing the bill last September.
Personal PAC President Terry Cosgrove cast Breen as out-of-touch with moderate voters in a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. In legislative races during that election cycle, the group spent more than $1 million and could eclipse that figure in November, Cosgrove said.
After the primary, the committee will evaluate its spending strategy, Cosgrove said, but already intends to make Breen -- and state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine and state Rep. Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor -- top targets.
"We are going to spend the amount of money that it takes to educate the voters of the 48th District about what their state representative stands for and the harm that he's causing to the women and families of this state," Cosgrove said.
The group also is stepping up efforts to recruit moderate Republicans to run.
"We will be doing that after the primary," Cosgrove said. "We'll look and see where there's vacancies and open seats, and we'll also be doing it in the 2020 elections."
Breen is running unopposed in the primary but expects his re-election bid will be "strongly contested." He called Personal PAC an extreme group that supports "taxpayer funding of elective abortions up until the moment of birth," and aligned Costa Howard with that stance.
"Personal PAC will not support a candidate who has any exceptions from their total abortion position," Breen said.
He also tried to tie Costa Howard to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"The Madigan program is for the candidate, the Madigan candidate, to be very very quiet and to allow the Democratic Party, to allow the affiliated groups like Personal PAC do all the messaging, and the candidate stays very quiet," Breen said.
Costa Howard, an attorney who served two terms on the Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board, said she had no role in the group's materials against Breen.
"I was recently made aware that I received their endorsement, as did a number of other pro-choice candidates," she said. "Their campaign is against Peter Breen. It's not a campaign to elect Terra Costa Howard."
When asked about her views on abortion policy, Costa Howard said she supports a "woman's right to make her health care choices with her doctors."
"If they are receiving public assistance in terms of their health care ... those are decisions between them and their doctors," Costa Howard said. "A woman, regardless of her financial situation, is entitled to make those decisions with her doctor."
Costa Howard announced her campaign last September. She previously was a DuPage County assistant public defender.
The 48th District covers all or parts of Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Lombard and Downers Grove.