'Proxy war' takes over Illinois political ads

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Most viewers have seen the ads targeting Mike Madigan, Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner - and Rauner isn't even on anyone's ballot. It's all part of the "proxy war" that's taken over Illinois political advertising.

During some commercial breaks, the ads run one after another featuring the same alleged political villain. Longtime Illinois house Speaker Michael Madigan appears to be getting the worst of it. He's cast as the architect of the state's fiscal problems and is the bad guy in virtually every republican legislative candidate's commercials all over the state.

"Voters have to be confused about what district they even live in," said Joanna Klonsky, a Democratic political consultant. She said Republican anti-Madigan ads have never worked.

"It's an old play from an old playbook. This is what they do every cycle," Klonsky added.

But this year, the GOP - led by Governor Bruce Rauner and financed by several wealthy donors - is funding a barrage of anti-Madigan ads all over Illinois.

Comptroller candidate Democrat Susana Mendoza says she weathering a storm of commercials that cast her as a Madigan protégé.

"Seven more days to go. Like I said, I'm my own person. Always have been, always will be," Mendoza said.

Democrats - with less money to spend - are using Rauner and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as their bad guys. And Klonsky said the effort to link Rauner to Trump is really about the 2018 Illinois governor's race, when incumbent Rauner is expected to run for re-election.

"Tying the governor to Trump now while you have Trump at the forefront of folks' minds and try to bring some of his approval numbers down now is what this play is about," Klonsky said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Steve Brown - a spokesman for the speaker - called the anti-Madigan ads "just an attempt to escape from Trump and Rauner," whom Brown said remain very unpopular across the state. He said the ads do not appear to be working for the Republicans.
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