State Sen. Sam McCann, running for governor under the Conservative Party banner, has taken to the airwaves with a commercial.
McCann, of Plainview, is seen driving a pickup truck on a two-lane highway and through an unpaved path through a farm field, as well as greeting voters.
“People are tired of being used,” McCann says in the ad, “tired of being promised by the Rauners and the Pritzkers that change is coming.
“Well, change hasn’t come, and people need action now,” he continues. “They need someone to stand up together with them. I am that man. I’m the only true conservative running for governor.”
The ad also features a graphic showing the increase in the state income tax since 2015 – including the individual rate going from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent.
McCann, who remains a state senator elected as a Republican, is running against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who have carried on a multi-million dollar ad war on TV; as well as Libertarian Kash Jackson.
McCann said his campaign is spending about $275,000 for "a robust buy on downstate network and Chicagoland cable" stations.
McCann has received hundreds of thousands of dollars of support from the operating engineers union, including July donations of $50,000 from Local 150 in Countryside, and $550,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Engineers Political Education Committee.
Local 150 also provided $12,300 as an in-kind contribution to McCann’s campaign for video production services in June. The money was paid to RGB Hill, a Chicago video production company. McCann said the firm produced the ad.
Meanwhile, McCann’s campaign also got $175,000 at the end of August from the LaGrange-based Fight Back Fund. The fund is linked to Local 150 and has aired its own commercials backing unions and issues like equal pay and better healthcare for workers.
Ed Maher, spokesman for Local 150, has said the membership is split among Democrats and Republicans, and Republican members who don’t want to vote for Rauner “still have to have an option,” and McCann is backed as he has supported unions.
The union membership leans slightly Democratic, Maher has said, and in addition to McCann, 150 is also backing Pritzker.
Meanwhile, a group called Economic Freedom Alliance this week reported spending more than $1.5 million on ads opposed to McCann.
Greg Baise is treasurer of the alliance, and is also president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. The IMA has endorsed Rauner, and in recent days gave $2 million to the alliance.
Baise said he and Ron Gidwitz – now the U.S. ambassador to Belgium -- started the alliance a few years ago as an advocacy group, separate from the IMA. The chairman of the alliance now is James Gidwitz, brother of Ron and chairman of CEO of Continental Materials Corp.
Video of the ads was posted on Capitol Fax Tuesday. One of the ads calls the Conservative Party candidate "shady Sam McCann," and a narrator says in part he "claimed to serve in the Marine Corps, but the Marines have no record he ever served." It also said he voted "with (House Speaker) Mike Madigan to raise taxes $3 billion," and that he "got caught using his campaign account as Sam’s slush fund," has dodged "nearly $200,000 in taxes," and was "taken to court over bad credit card debt."
A narrator calls McCann "too shady and sleazy for Illinois."
The other ad repeats some of the same allegations – and says McCann is a Madigan plant who "sided with Madigan and big unions to oppose Governor Rauner’s conservative reforms."
"A vote for McCann is a vote to keep the Madigan machine in control," a narrator states.
McCann issued a statement calling the ads "false and cowardly attacks" that are "just another example of Bruce Rauner’s desperation as his support evaporates across Illinois. We have seen this tired old move time and time again – when Rauner is in a corner, he shouts ‘Madigan!’ He calls anyone who defies him a Madigan plant, including (state Rep.) Jeanne Ives, who nearly defeated Rauner in the primary."
As he has said in past campaigns when his past mention of the Marines was used against him, McCann says he didn’t claim to be a Marine, but to have signed up but then was hurt in a construction accident before he had a chance to go to boot camp.
He also said Tuesday he never voted to raise taxes.
In the summer of 2017, McCann voted against a tax increase that helped end a two-year budget impasse, but for the spending plan approved by the legislature.
Liens for back taxes that McCann has contested, lawsuits over credit, and questions of his campaign spending for mileage and other purposes have not yielded any criminal charges.
He said his family and construction business faced hard times "like many Illinoisans" and blamed it on "the crippling of the economy by hedge fund managers like Bruce Rauner."
He said travel costs from his campaign helped his duties as senator in "one of Illinois’ largest districts," and apparently referring to his pro-union votes, he said, "The fact is that I stand with blue-collar middle class working families when wealthy elites push laws to take food off their tables and money out of their pockets."
He said he stands by his "conservative record" and called Rauner "a failed governor and a liar."
Similar to a message in the alliance ads, Rauner has said he thinks McCann is a Madigan plant put in the race to help Pritzker win.