Rauner's Help In Key Senate Contest: A Boost Or A Turnoff?

Mar 13, 2016

Gov. Bruce Rauner has endorsed state trooper Bryce Benton in the 50th state senate district, over incumbent Sen. Sam McCann.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spent his Sunday trying to give a boost to a central Illinois Republican candidate for state senate. The race is seen as a key test of Rauner's own agenda, and power within his party.

Gov. Rauner stopped by a table of folks waiting for pancakes at Charlie Parker's diner in Springfield.

He gestured to the man by his side -- Bryce Benton. He's a state trooper, and homeland security officer, Rauner told them. Vote for him on Tuesday.

"I need him in the legislature to help me battle Madigan. So. Bryce Benton for State Senate," Rauner said.

(Benton himself didn't say much; he told them to enjoy their breakfast).

By "Madigan," Rauner was referring to his political nemesis, Speaker of the Illinois House Michael Madigan; never mind that should Benton prevail over incumbent Sam McCann, he'd be in the Illinois Senate.

The Liberty Principles PAC, which is heavily backed by Rauner's own Turnaround PAC, has spent more than $3 million dollars to help defeat a fellow Republican, after McCann took unions' side over Rauner's on a single labor-backed bill.

Rauner's endorsement of Benton could also be a negative for some voters. On his way out of the restaurant, a woman told the governor, "do your job buddy. Get a budget, please."

The race could see last-minute movement.

Monday, the state elections board is scheduled to take up a Jacksonville resident's complaint about McCann's expenses.

Benton's campaign is airing TV ads accusing McCann of excess mileage reimbursements.

McCann says he could have been more exact with his paperwork, but he says he's done nothing improper -- he says he spends a lot of time driving around his large district.

McCann has recently tried to make issue of Benton's work reimbursements.