SPRINGFIELD (AP) – An influential business advocacy organization made its first endorsement for Illinois treasurer Thursday, choosing Republican Tom Cross, a move that signifies the unusual intensity of a normally lackluster race for the lone statewide seat without an incumbent.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch told reporters the group chose the treasurer’s race because of the office’s expanding role in the business community. He noted that former treasurer Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and current Republican officeholder Dan Rutherford have “increasingly become spokesmen for the fiscal integrity of the state.”
The group, which describes itself as nonpartisan, supports Republicans’ efforts to lower taxes and opposes Democrats’ push to raise the state’s minimum wage – both big issues in the November election.
It’s only endorsed congressional candidates in recent years, but Maisch said the group feels the need to “engage across a broader spectrum of government.”
In endorsing the former House Republican Leader, the group highlighted the Oswego attorney’s opposition to a tax increase and a proposal to shift to a graduated income tax, plans which have been supported by Democratic candidate and state Sen. Michael Frerichs. Cross also was the 2012 recipient of the chamber’s “Champion of Free Enterprise” award.
Maisch called Frerichs, the former Champaign County auditor, a “conscientious legislator” and praised his proposal to extend enterprise zones, designated areas designed to encourage economic development. However, he said, the candidates’ “policy differences are marked, especially in financial areas.”
Cross pledged Thursday to use the office to require the legislature to enact a balanced budget, as well as to review state financial documents to ensure their accuracy.
Meanwhile, Frerichs campaign manager Zach Koutsky said in an emailed statement that Cross is the “ultimate Springfield insider” who has voted “over the past 20 years with the special interests and against the interests of Illinois families.”
In recent months, the treasurer’s race has seen more activity than is usual. Frerichs has far outraised Cross in fundraising, and reserved a $1.1 million ad buy this week – one of the largest commitments outside of the governor’s race.
Cross, meanwhile, has been on the offensive, accusing Frerichs of financial mismanagement in his previous role as auditor, and highlighting a dispute over unpaid taxes over Frerichs’ legislative office. Frerichs has disputed the accusations.