Not one but two powerful Illinois teachers unions have come forward to formally endorse Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn for governor over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who's basically the embodiment of all they stand against.
An endorsement from the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) on Wednesday arrived two days after the Illinois Education Association (IEA) declared official support for Quinn.
In a blistering statement, IFT boss Dan Montgomery said: "Strong schools start with a strong investment, and Gov. Quinn is the only candidate with a commitment to ensure that all students have the resources to succeed from their first day of school through college graduation. Gov. Quinn respects and understands working families, and supports our fundamental right to speak with a collective voice on behalf of our communities."
The IFT includes the Chicago Teachers Union and is affiliated with anti-Rauner Illinois Freedom PAC, which recently donated $1.4 million to Quinn's re-election campaign, prompting the Winnetka venture capitalist to solicit small contributions from supporters mere weeks after receiving a $2.5 million check from Chicago hedge fund kingpin Ken Griffin. Begging for $5 donations, Rauner voice fears that "Quinn and his special interest allies are going to come for me with a multi-million dollar ad blitz."
"Given the fairy tales he tells in his commercials, we are committed to making sure voters know how out-of-touch the real Rauner is," stated Montgomery. "He may be a billionaire, but his ideas about what's best for education and Illinois families are completely bankrupt."
On Monday, the IEA condemned Rauner for advocating more money for private school vouchers at the expense of public schools and blaming "public employees, including IEA members, for the state's financial problems instead of the politicians who actually control state spending."
Pooled together, the IFT and IEA have about 230,000 members and collectively donated some $1.2 million for Quinn's 2010 match-up with Bill Brady.
Rauner's rep Mike Schrimpf sniffed to the Chicago Sun-Times that the unions' expected announcements would not "impact Bruce's longtime support of great teachers, and he will continue to advocate for better schools for students."
Hours after Politico re-labeled the Quinn-Rauner contest from "toss-up" to "leans Republican," the results of an IEA-backed poll were released Thursday, showing Rauner ahead of Quinn four percentage points for a 46-42 lead. These numbers illustrate a much closer race than touted in earlier surveys that had Rauner leading by as much as 12 points.
Considering Quinn's various campaign-derailing predicaments, you have to wonder what took Illinois' largest teacher groups so long in offiically backing the embattled governor during a difficult few months and an even bleaker future.
What were they waiting for?