Democrats Fuming After Release of GOP Email Blaming Duckworth for Legionnaires Controversy

In the wake of a Legionnaires’ outbreak that claimed the lives of 13 residents at a downstate veterans home, an email released Thursday has Democrats fuming.

The email, obtained by WBEZ, was penned by GOP Illinois Comptroller candidate Darlene Senger, and says that Republicans should “maybe tie this back to (Senator Tammy) Duckworth,” who was the state’s Veterans Affairs Director from 2006 to 2009.

The attempt to tie Duckworth’s name to the Quincy situation was denounced by Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Pritzker blasted the administration of Governor Bruce Rauner, saying that he was outraged that there would be an attempt to tie Duckworth to what happened at the home.

“An article comes out that criticizes them, and their first reaction is ‘who can we blame? Let’s blame Tammy Duckworth,’” Pritzker said. “I’m outraged that they would blame anybody.”

Mendoza sounded a similar tone, criticizing the governor and his administration for trying to pass the buck.

“The governor and his people are incapable of acknowledging or taking responsibility for their own wrongdoing,” she said.

Senger, a former top aide to the governor, reacted to the release of the email, saying that “our veterans homes suffered from chronic underfunding that impacted the care our veterans received.”

Duckworth’s spokeswoman says the senator stands by her earlier statement, which read in part:

“Why are we wasting time on this kind of stuff instead of troubleshooting and (focusing) on what we need to do to prevent another outbreak.”

A taskforce assembled by Rauner suggested that lawmakers approve a $245 million plan to build new facilities in Quincy for veterans, but it faces an uncertain future in the legislature as Republicans and Democrats alike gear up for the 2018 election.

Senator Dick Durbin has said the federal government would likely reimburse the state for a significant portion of the plan if it’s approved, and Pritzker also seemed to endorse it.

“We should do whatever it takes,” he said. 

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