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Local Democrats lead money race

Mike Riopell
Posted on 10/19/2016, 8:27 AM

No one with a television needs to be told southern Illinois candidates for seats in Springfield are spending lots of money ahead of the Nov. 8 election, but recent campaign reports show local Democrats outspending their Republican rivals recently.

Candidates recently had to disclose their spending activity over the last three months, and those reports show that state Sen. Gary Forby, a Benton Democrat seeking re-election, spent about $913,000 in the third quarter of the year. His opponent, Republican Harrisburg Mayor Dale Fowler spent less than half that, about $346,000 over the same period of time.

Additional spending by party leaders on behalf of both candidates drives their numbers up further, records show.

The two candidates are part of a statewide war over control at the Illinois Capitol, where Democrats have long held a dominant advantage. Republicans aren"t likely in a position to take control Nov. 8, but the GOP could help Gov. Bruce Rauner advance his agenda by sending more lawmakers to Springfield for the second half of his term.

The candidates" spending numbers don"t include ads purchased by outside political committees. For example, the conservative Liberty Principles PAC has independently bought ads in the major southern Illinois race for state House between Democratic state Rep. John Bradley of Marion and Republican Dave Severin of Benton.

In that race, Bradley spent about $722,000 in the last three months, records show. And Severin spent about $273,000, in addition to spending on behalf of the candidates on both sides.

Both sides are poised to criticize the other for the source of the candidates" money. Much of the money the Illinois Republican Party has to spend on the races comes from Gov. Bruce Rauner. On the other side, Bradley and Forby received big checks from other Democratic lawmakers and leaders.

Bradley criticized Severin in a statement for taking campaign cash from "a handful of Chicago area billionaires, including Governor Rauner." And a Severin spokesman similarly criticized Bradley for getting checks from "from (House Speaker Michael) Madigan allies and Chicago special interests."

Forby and Fowler had a similar back-and-forth.

"Senator Forby isn"t new to money in politics," Fowler spokesman Jason Harbison said.

Forby hit back at Republicans and worked to tie Fowler"s campaign to Rauner.

"While my opponent has received nearly 100% of his campaign cash from our billionaire Governor, Bruce Rauner, our campaign has received strong support, both large and small, from hundreds of individuals, businesses and organizations," Forby said in a statement.

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