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Rauner, Madigan, Trump Dominate Illinois U.S. Senate, Comptroller Races

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The race for Illinois comptroller pits Republican incumbent Leslie Geissler Munger against Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. But it might as well be Bruce Rauner vs. Michael Madigan.

On this week's "Only in Illinois," we discuss how both parties in state legislative races will use the opposite party's leader in negative campaign ads. Republicans already have aired attack ads that portray Democratic lawmakers as servants of House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

Munger was appointed comptroller by Rauner in 2015 and Mendoza rarely mentions her opponent without a reference to Rauner. Likewise, Munger has criticized Mendoza -- who served 10 years in the Illinois House under Madigan's leadership -- for citing Madigan as a mentor.

For his part, Madigan has used every opportunity to denigrate Rauner's "extreme" politics, which he says is the cause of the state's prolonged, damaging budget impasse. In a speech to rally county Democratic leaders, Madigan linked Rauner's "extremism" with that of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

As campaign season gains momentum in the final eight weeks before Election Day, voters are assured of an avalanche of negative ads by Democrats that seek to link Republican opponents to Rauner.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Mark Kirk's repeated disavowal of Trump has not stopped Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth from linking Kirk to Trump as often as possible.

This is why we think the 2016 election in Illinois is becoming one big proxy battle in which candidates try to damage their opponents by associating them with their party leaders. Will it work? Should it? That's what we're talking about on this week's "Only in Illinois."