SPRINGFIELD - A Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor claims party powers are out to get Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign, an allegation that one official's spokesman called "delusional."
"They want to screw Pat Quinn so he can't win," state Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Chicago Democrat running for lieutenant governor, told the Daily Herald editorial board Tuesday.
Hendon claims this is why House Speaker Michael Madigan, chairman of the Democratic Party, didn't try harder to pass an income tax that Senate Democrats had approved to help Quinn balance the budget.
"Mike Madigan could pass a ham sandwich in the House if he wanted to," Hendon said.
Asked specifically if he thought Democratic powers were conspiring against Quinn, Hendon was resolute.
"Yes, they set Pat Quinn up to fail. There is no question about it," Hendon said.
He also said such politics are why state Comptroller Dan Hynes didn't support Quinn's request to borrow up to $500 million to pay state bills. Hynes is Quinn's top rival for the party nomination.
Hynes, however, has repeatedly denied any political motivation and blamed the Quinn administration for not providing solid details to back the borrowing plan.
The Democratic contest for governor pits former anti-establishment crusader Quinn, who ascended from the lieutenant governor's post to the governor's office upon Rod Blagojevich's scandal-clad ouster, against Hynes, a three-term state comptroller and son of Tom Hynes, the former Cook County assessor and former state Senate president.
A Hynes spokesman called Hendon's comments "absurd."
In a similar Daily Herald editorial board appearance on Monday, Hynes was asked about Madigan's past support of his campaigns, and he stressed that he's been an outspoken critic of the state's political leadership since taking office.
"When I froze pork projects in the early years of my term, that did not really endear me with legislators or leaders," Hynes said. "I think people will look at me as someone with an independent voice on ethics."
Madigan has offered no endorsement in this governor's race.
Told of Hendon's comments, a Madigan spokesman had this reaction:
"That kind of delusional commentary from Mr. Hendon only demonstrates why Art Turner would be a great person to be the lieutenant governor," said spokesman Steve Brown.
Turner is a longtime member of the Illinois House whom Madigan has endorsed.
For his part, Turner, who appeared alongside Hendon at the editorial board session, acknowledged that Democratic infighting has taken its toll.
"I think what I bring to the table is the ability to try to, one, see if we can get people to trust each other," Turner said. "This debate via the press about somebody setting somebody up I think does not help where we need to go as a state in terms of the issues our citizens are concerned with."
Asked for reaction to the conspiracy allegations, a Quinn spokeswoman focused attention elsewhere and said Quinn's received strong support from Democratic leaders throughout Illinois.