Here in Illinois, election season is getting muddier by the millisecond. If you thought last week was bad, the gloves have come off between Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner as they lob toxic verbal grenades back and forth with the latter treading carefully not to step in political quicksand.
Quinn vs. Rauner. Once almost golden in his invincibility, multi-millionaire Rauner hit a speed-bump and careered off the road last week as a pair of off-color confessions marred an otherwise successful grassroots campaign to unseat Quinn. Now it appears his acknowledgements that he belongs to an exclusive wine club (membership fee: $140,000) and that he once pitched the idea of eliminating the state's minimum wage altogether are proving difficult to escape. On Thursday, the Democratic Governors Association made public the results of a poll showing Quinn leading Rauner by three percentage points, the first time the incumbent Democrat has led his Republican rival in Illinois' gubernatorial race (albiet from a friendly poll). The enemies hurled low-blow insults back and forth Tuesday in an engrossing live-streamed non-debate debate before the conservative-leaning Chicago Tribune editorial board. While Rauner called Quinn a "failed governor" who engages in Blago-era corruption, Quinn counter-attacked to accuse his opponent of attempting to bribe lawmakers into voting "no" to the bipartisan pension reform bill that passed through the General Assembly last December. Rauner flatly denied the allegation. Meanwhile, his team fast-tracked a pair of videos mocking a Quinn aide for passing notes and whispering in Quinn's ear during the showdown. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps sensing trouble, flew to Rauner's rescue on Wednesday in his third trip in two months, telling reporters: "We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of energy, give a lot of money, to help Bruce." Will it be enough?
Durbin vs. Oberweis. The national GOP is giving no love to Jim Oberweis, the west surburban Chicago dairy mogul and state senator attempting to dethrone Dick Durbin—the second most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate—from his longtime post. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a member of the Republican Senatorial Committee, which offers election-season support to candidates it deems promising, said Thursday that Oberweis isn't a priority for the party. This is a major setback for Oberweis and a huge vote of confidence for Durbin. The senator released his first campaign ad this cycle, making no mention of his rival and choosing to take the high road over negative mud-slinging. The politician previously slammed Oberweis as a "radical" tea party candidate after polls showed a narrowing gap between the pair following Oberweis' ultra-negative media blitz. One unlikely supporter in the conservative contender's corner: Chicago pastor and South Side activist Corey Brooks, who's touting Oberweis on Twitter amid rising backlash toward Democrats among the city's African-American religious leaders.
Chicago City Council vs. Faisal Khan. As expected, a majority of Rahm Emanuel-aligned, re-election-seeking aldermen approved a proposed ordinance Wednesday that takes steps to depose the unpopular council watchdog and shift oversight duties to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. Appointed in 2011, when newly minted Mayor Emanuel moved to crack down on corruption within city government, Khan encountered pushback from resentful council members who curbed his efforts to proactively investigate alleged campaign finance violations and other shady misdeeds. He is barred from pursuing anonymous tips that aldermen worry would give political rivals an opportunity to submit information that could smear them. They accuse Khan of overstepping his authority and spending too much money on trivial matters. The ordinance, should it become law, would empower Ferguson to call investigations but restrict the IG from probing secret tipsters' reports.