By CARL GREEN
Since 2003, three Democratic legislators have stood as a southern Illinois bulwark against Republican and corporate attempts to push unions out of Illinois.
State Sen. Gary Forby of Benton, and Reps. Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg and John Bradley of Marion have carried on the pro-worker theme of southern Illinois’ coal mining tradition, even while legislative districts around theirs have turned Republican.
But this year, Governor Bruce Rauner is targeting the trio for some of the biggest spending of the campaign, using misleading TV commercials repeated endlessly to try to tie them to House Speaker Mike Madigan, a constant Republican target.
Forby reports that Gov. Bruce Rauner has kicked in $600,000 just for attack ads in his run for re-election against challenger Mark Minor, a Baptist preacher, who also ran against Forby in 2012 – and lost.
“Bruce Rauner has spent almost $600,000 running negative ads against me, and it’s only the end of July,” Forby said in a campaign report. “This is going to be one of the most expensive races – if not the most expensive race – in Illinois history.
“Bruce Rauner wants me gone. Why? Because I represent what Bruce Rauner despises – unions. I have been a card-carrying union member for over 30 years. I’m the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee where, over the years, I fought to protect the interests of working families.
“Unions have been my biggest supporters,” Forby added. “You were there for me during my very first race and have stood by me election after election. And now, I’m asking you to stand with me again. I’ll always stand up for you.”
Rich Miller, a respected political columnist in Springfield, noted an enormous increase in spending by Illinois House Republican Organization between this time in 2012 and this year. The political campaign group, he adds, is almost entirely funded by the Illinois Republican Party, and that group is now mainly funded by Rauner after he donated a $5 million check.
In the second quarter of 2012, Miller writes, the party spent $4,130. This year, however, it reported spending $2.7 million in the same period, with $2 million of that going to the House Republican Organization.
Miller makes special note of the campaign against the southern Illinois trio, saying the ads seek to portray them as being in “Madigan’s pocket” and comments, “It’s way over the top because Forby isn’t really a Madigan Democrat, but that’s beside the point. Madigan is hugely unpopular, so that’s just the way it goes.”
Bradley and Phelps are far from being doctrinaire Democrats, either, with their pro-gun and pro-life positions. Both have Republican opponents on the ballot.
One Rauner ad, rerun constantly, portrays the trio as soldiers marching in front of a Madigan character.
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Forby is striking back with his own TV ads that emphasize his support for Organized Labor.
One of his ads states:
“What would happen without them? Who would demand higher wages or stand up to outsourcers? Where would a family struck by tragedy on the job turn? Without southern Illinois’ unions, the big corporations will have all the power and we’ll have none. That’s why Gary Forby is fighting them with everything he’s got.”
The independence of the southern Illinois group can also be seen in their support of legislation to legalize concealed carry in Illinois. The state’s law, sponsored two years ago by Phelps, just got a “cleanup” revision that he and Forby co-sponsored, containing measures sought by gun rights supporters and others by concealed carry opponents. Rauner signed it into law earlier last month.
YOU CAN HELP
To support Sen. Forby, send checks to Gary Forby Campaign Fund, P.O. Box 966, Benton IL 62812.