The Illinois governors race just got a little more crowded.
Sen. Sam McCann (C-Plainview) announced Thursday his entry into the race alongside Aaron Merreighn, a veterans’ rights activist, as a Conservative Party candidate. If McCann reaches 25,000 signatiures to be added to the ballot, he will face off against Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in the Nov. 6 race.
"When I announced I was not going to run for Senate, I said the Republican Party under Rauner was unrecognizable to me," McCann said in a statement. "Rauner has smeared the reputations of proven conservatives and abandoned the principles that millions of Illinois working families hold dear: economic liberty, traditional values, and law and order."
McCann billed himself as the only conservative in the race and the only candidate "who has stood up to both Rauner and Madigan," noting his campaign will offer "a real chance for Illinois to break free from the politics as usual crowd."
Pritzker, in a statement, welcomed "another voice to the race for governor at this critical time for our state."
"Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who has done untold damage to communities throughout Illinois," Pritzker said, "and people from across the political spectrum are ready for change."
Rauner's camp was a bit more blunt in its response.
“Sam McCann is the worst kind of political opportunist who is only running for Governor to line his own pockets," Rauner's campaign said in a statement. "McCann’s unethical record speaks for itself: he failed to pay his taxes, racked up massive debts, lied about serving in the Marine Corps, and used his campaign account as a personal piggy bank, even buying himself an SUV."
“Public service should not be for personal gain," the statement continued, "and Sam McCann's new 'campaign' is just a thinly veiled attempt to profit off of politics."
McCann was elected to the State Senate in 2010 and announced he would not seek re-election as a Republican in 2018. In his statement, McCann touted his advocacy "for taxpayers, working people and small businesses, veterans, and common sense."
McCann's announcement of Aaron Merreighn as his running mate points directly at the recent Quincy Veterans Home controversy.
"Rauner’s handling of the Legionnaires’ outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home needlessly put lives at risk, and his record on veterans issues is nothing short of shameful," Merreighn said in a statement. "Sadly, it has become symbolic of the failed leadership in Springfield that governs by crisis instead of by common sense."
Rauner spent a week at the sprawling, 130-year-old state-run facility in January and said afterward that the state would replace the plumbing. He also said he would assemble a group of experts to determine whether a state-of-the-art dorm should be built and whether a safer groundwater source is available for the home.