More suburban candidates join November election fray

The same day lawmakers in Springfield blew a key budget deadline for the second year in a row, a handful of suburban candidates signed up to mount challenges in previously uncontested legislative races.

Tuesday was a deadline for new candidates to file petition signatures for those posts. Democrats added four new challengers to incumbent Republicans; the GOP added two. That means job insecurity for six more lawmakers who will spend the summer hoping some budget middle ground can be found.

New to the ballot

The new matchups might not top the list of the most hotly contested races in November, but voter distaste with Springfield could have both parties trying to put more seats in play.

On the Republican side, Tracy Smodilla, a Bartlett economic development commissioner, signed up to run for Illinois Senate against Democrat Cristina Castro of Elgin in a seat being vacated by state Sen. Mike Noland. And Republican Richard Evans of Elgin, who was removed from the ballot in a spring bid for Congress, has filed to challenge state Rep. Anna Moeller of Elgin.

Among the new Democratic challengers is Steve Swanson of Lombard, who filed to take on Republican state Rep. Peter Breen, a former Lombard official in his first term. And Valerie Burd of Yorkville will run against Republican Keith Wheeler of Oswego.

For the Senate, Democrat Melissa Coyne of Fox Lake has emerged as an opponent for longtime Republican state Sen. Pamela Althoff of McHenry, while former North Barrington Trustee Kelly Mazeski of Barrington Hills will run against the Senate's newest member, Republican Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods.

McConchie won the March primary for the spot and was appointed to serve the rest of Republican Dan Duffy's term following his departure earlier this year.

More Mautino pressure

McConchie was one of the Republican state lawmakers at a news conference Thursday trying to put more pressure on Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino.

A letter by state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville and other Republicans urged Mautino, a Democrat, to take unpaid leave while a federal probe into his campaign spending plays out.

Mautino, among other things, spent more than $200,000 in about a dozen years at a single service station in his district.

"Illinoisans deserve clean government," the letter reads. "They deserve audits they can trust."

A Mautino spokesman declined to comment.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines became the highest-ranking Democrat to urge Mautino to step aside.

Fewer people kicked?

Gov. Bruce Rauner has legislation on his desk that would move toward automatically registering most Illinoisans to vote.

That could have implications for candidates who need to collect petition signatures to get on the ballot. One of the main reasons candidates get kicked off the ballot is because people who sign their petitions either aren't registered to vote or are registered at the wrong address.

So, if people are registered automatically, will more candidates survive challenges?

Illinois State Board of Elections attorney Ken Menzel says that's possible - eventually.

There are some complications.

For one, Rauner still could veto the plan, which a lot of Republicans opposed.

For another, implementing the idea is a couple years off, and there may not be money to fund it.

Christie alum joins Kirk

An alumna of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's campaign for president has joined U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's staff.

Sarah Dolan is the Highland Park Republican's new government press secretary following a gig as rapid response director for Christie.

"Sarah thrives in a high-paced environment and is a perfect match for our team," Kirk said in a statement.

On the campaign side, Kirk is involved in his first Senate re-election race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.

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