Downstate conservative roils governor race by declaring candidacy

  • State Sen. Sam McCann speaks during a meeting of the House and Senate's Committees on Veterans Affairs in March in Chicago. McCann says he's running for governor.

    State Sen. Sam McCann speaks during a meeting of the House and Senate's Committees on Veterans Affairs in March in Chicago. McCann says he's running for governor. Erin Brown/Chicago Sun-Times

  • J.B. Pritzker

    J.B. Pritzker

  • Bruce Rauner

    Bruce Rauner

 
 
Updated 4/19/2018 6:42 PM

State Sen. Sam McCann says he's no spoiler after creating waves by jumping into the already turbulent gubernatorial election Thursday.

The downstate homebuilder quit the Republican caucus and hopes to run for governor under a third "Conservative Party" if he can get on the ballot. It could spell trouble for GOP Gov. Rauner and draws parallels to the incumbent's narrow victory over conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton in the March primary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But first McCann must collect 25,000 signatures by late June to file his candidacy and establish the new party.

"Once successful, it will allow the voters in Illinois a true voice for conservative and common-sense values," McCann said.

Rauner "is the spoiler," McCann said in an interview. "I'm not the spoiler. He can't win. He's facing an opponent with more money in a blue state in a blue year."

McCann, a Plainview resident who like Ives opposes abortion and sanctuary cities, could snag conservative votes and cash at a time when Rauner needs support from every Republican as he battles Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

Echoing Pritzker, McCann said in a video that Rauner had failed the state.

"You can't spend money you don't have," he said. "Opportunity should exist for everyone -- not just a chosen few. I'm the only person in this race who has consistently stood up against Rauner and (Democratic House Speaker) Michael Madigan and their machine."

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Rauner, of Winnetka, was quick to counter the offensive.

"Sam McCann is the worst kind of political opportunist who is only running for governor to line his own pockets. Public service should not be for personal gain and Sam McCann's new 'campaign' is just a thinly veiled attempt to profit off politics," the Rauner campaign stated.

Not surprisingly, Chicagoan and Hyatt hotel heir Pritzker welcomed the addition of a third candidate.

"Rauner is a failed governor who has done untold damage to communities throughout Illinois, and people from across the political spectrum are ready for change," Pritzker said.

McCann said he'll appeal to blue-collar and white-collar workers. "Voters want someone who's not a billionaire. I'm living a real life," he said.

Several conservative Republican lawmakers showed no signs of jumping ship.

"I'm a Republican. That hasn't changed," Ives said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills said, "I'm voting for Gov. Rauner because he's the Republican nominee."

Although strongly conservative on social issues, McCann backs organized labor, and that caused a rift between him and Rauner, causing the governor to support a primary challenger in 2016. McCann won, with financial aid from unions.

"I'm proud of the fact I'm pro-business and pro-union," he said.

His bid for governor has nothing to do with the primary but everything to do with Rauner, McCann said. "This guy can't work with anybody. Four years ago he said he'd be the anti-Madigan and instead, he's become Madigan on steroids. He demands total control of the Republican caucus."

McCann's running mate is Aaron Merreighn of Riverton, a human resources representative for the Illinois Department of Revenue and a veterans advocate.

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