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Local News

Illinois Senate candidates trade jabs on Madigan scandal, corruption

Rivals running to represent 49th Illinois Senate seat

The candidates for the Illinois State Senate District 49 seat, Democrat Meg Loughran Cappel and Republican Thomas McCullagh, traded jabs about the ongoing scandal tied to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The candidates for the Illinois State Senate District 49 seat, Democrat Meg Loughran Cappel and Republican Thomas McCullagh, traded jabs about the ongoing scandal tied to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

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The two candidates running to represent the Illinois 49th Senate District recently traded jabs over their stances on corruption in state government.

Republican Thomas McCullagh attacked his Democratic opponent, Meg Loughran Cappel, in a news release calling her a "hypocrite" for saying on her campaign website she believes in "fighting corruption" while accepting support from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Federal prosecutors implicated, but did not charge, Madigan in a bribery scandal involving the utility company ComEd. The company admitted to giving benefits to associates of the speaker in exchange for favorable legislation.

Madigan has denied any wrongdoing.

In the wake of the scandal, several Republicans and even some Democrats have called on Madigan to resign.

McCullagh criticized Cappel for also not calling for Madigan's resignation, but in a statement, her campaign said if the allegations against the speaker are true, he should step down.

McCullagh also said in his release that Cappel is "bought by corruption" for not returning "Madigan money."

"Cappel’s official campaign website stresses her priority to fight corruption in Springfield, but if she is unable to fight corruption on the campaign trail she will not be able to fight it in Springfield," McCullagh said in the release.

Cappel responded to the accusation by calling McCullagh a "liar" in a statement. She said there was no truth to the claim she was taking "Madigan money."

"As a teacher, one of the most important lessons I teach my students is to be honest and trustworthy," she said in the statement. "Tom McCullagh could learn a thing or two from some of my kids because his baseless political attacks have no relation to the truth."

State campaign finance records and a tally by the nonpartisan organization Reform for Illinois show Cappel's largest contributors are mostly union groups like the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers. There are no direct donations from Madigan.

But McCullagh said in an interview that union groups, like the ones donating to Cappel's campaign, have also donated to Madigan. The speaker has raised more than $1.2 million from the IBEW and more than $850,000 from the IFT over the last couple of years, according to the Reform for Illinois tally.

McCullagh also argued that as the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Madigan has significant influence over the party's campaign fundraising.

Cappel said if elected, she would support legislation to impose term limits for legislative leadership positions. Madigan's critics have argued for leadership position term limits as he's the longest serving speaker in the state's history.

The Democratic candidate also attacked McCullagh for planning to hold a fundraiser headlined by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich whom she called a "corrupt liar."

Other Will County area Republicans are using the Madigan scandal in their political attacks against Democratic opponents.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, argued this month his opponent, Harry Benton, was "silent" about "Madigan's culture of corruption."

The current senator representing District 49, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, is not running for reelection and is instead running to be the next Will County executive.

The 49th District includes all or parts of Aurora, Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Joliet, Montgomery, Naperville, Oswego, Plainfield, Romeoville and Shorewood.

The general election is Nov. 3.

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