Monday marked the deadline to dispute the validity of candidate petitions with the Illinois State Board of Elections. But a spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party said the group decided not to pursue a challenge after a review found McCann had reached the 25,000 signatures needed to qualify.
McCann, a Republican from central Illinois, is running for governor under the new banner of the Conservative Party. He is a supporter of organized labor, and he long has been at odds with Rauner, contending the governor has alienated fiscal and social conservatives.
Republican and Democratic candidates seeking statewide office need a minimum of 5,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot, but that threshold jumps to 25,000 for third-party candidates. McCann last week turned in roughly 65,000 in an attempt to survive any challenges to his candidacy.
The state GOP that Rauner heavily subsidizes has called him a “spoiler” amid concerns he could draw support from the governor’s GOP base to the benefit of Democrat candidate J.B. Pritzker. Rauner has labeled him a “pawn” of Pritzker and House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Democratic Party of Illinois. McCann received $50,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which endorsed Pritzker in the primary election.
McCann has rejected those attacks, saying he offers an alternative to the “political elite” in the Democrat and Republican parties, noting the vast personal wealth of both Pritzker and Rauner.
“The only choice is McCann based on Gov. Rauner’s failures and J.B. Pritzker’s shortcomings,” McCann spokesman Rick Crosley said Monday.
His campaign adds another hurdle to Rauner’s re-election bid, which narrowly survived a primary challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton. Ives lost by just 3 percentage points after mobilizing social conservatives angry about Rauner’s signature on laws that expanded abortion, immigrant and transgender rights.
McCann has seized on similar issues, while also criticizing Rauner for failing to prevent an income tax hike after several Republican lawmakers joined Democrats last summer to raise taxes and end a yearslong budget standoff.
McCann has faced political controversies in the past involving taxes owed by his construction firms, his military record and his use of campaign money. McCann acknowledged last year using campaign funds to purchase a $61,000 SUV, as well as an engine for a personally owned Jeep, and spending more than $19,000 for a truck and trailer for parades.
State Sen. Sam McCann sits in the Senate chamber in Springfield on May 31, 2018. He’s running for governor as a third-party candidate. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)