President Obama has waded into a state legislative primary between Democrats in Illinois, throwing his support behind political newcomer Juliana Stratton against incumbent Rep. Ken Dunkin.
Although Stratton is a newcomer, Obama's endorsement makes perfect sense. Why is that?
Dunkin has earned the ire of many Illinois Democrats as well as many voters in fifth state legislative district for helping to secure major legislative victories for the state's Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015, according to WTTW.
Dunkin helped defeat a measure aimed to help public employee unions in stalled contracts back in September, which was followed later in the year by the defeat of a bill which would have restored cuts made to the state's funding for social services.
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As one might imagine, these priorities did not sit well with members of a Democratic-dominated State House. Although Dunkin characterized his decisions as compromises necessary to get past political gridlock, Illinois Democrats who want to push back on the governor's agenda more strongly saw them as major defeats.
Dunkin has also been accused by Stratton's campaign of paying for votes, a charge which Dunkin calls ridiculous. However, WTTW reports that the Cook County State's Attorney's office is looking into these allegations.
As for Obama's endorsement: Why would the President want to get involved in this race and create the perception that he is interfering in local and state affairs?
For one thing, it is his last year in office and he wants to help strengthen the party at the local and state levels, where Democrats have been decimated in elections since 2010. Although many Republicans will inevitably look at this story and see nothing more than shameless, self-serving partisanship on the part of the President, he is doing exactly what one would expect a Democratic president to do: endorsing a candidate (Stratton) who has the backing of other Democratic legislators and major Democratic donor groups, such as unions.
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There's also the fact that a Dunkin campaign ad utilized a speech from Obama in which the president appealed to compromise between the two parties; he then used it to explain why he sided with Rauner on a host of issues. That likely did not sit well with Obama.
Dunkin and Stratton will face off in the Democratic primary next week on March 15, according to NBC.