NORWOOD PARK — Invoking Donald Trump has become a go-to tactic for down-ballot Democrats all over the country, as candidates of all stripes have tried to tie their opponents to the controversial top of their ticket.
A political action committee aligned with local Democrats is putting an underhanded twist on that tactic, with an ad campaign posing as a tacit Trump endorsement from Chicago's only Republican state representative.
Listen to Alex Nitkin describe last-minute campaign tactics in the race.
A mailer has circulated with the Republican presidential nominee's face alongside Rep. Michael McAuliffe, who represents Edison Park and parts of Norwood Park along with several suburbs.
One page has "The Trump-McAuliffe team working for us!" printed in Trump's iconic hotel-sign font, below unsubtle declarations like "Donald Trump knows what's best for our families."
The ad has also made it onto yard signs and a traveling billboard, which rolled past the 41st Ward early voting station at Roden Library, 6083 N. Northwest Hwy., on Friday.
It's the latest chapter in the increasingly nasty battle between McAuliffe, who has represented Illinois's 20th House District since 1996, and Merry Marwig, an O'Hare noise activist who emerged as a challenger with heavy backing from state and local Democrats.
The Trump-focused ad campaign was paid for by a PAC called Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers NFP, which lists City Council finance committee chair Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and the Service Employees International Union as top donors, according to the transparency site Illinois Sunshine. The PAC has spent money to aid to a broad range of Democratic leaders at the state and local level.
"I don't know anything about them, or what they're doing," Marwig said of the ad campaign Friday, as she canvassed with voters in Norwood Park Friday. "My campaign doesn't coordinate with any PACs — that wouldn't be legal."
Like Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Illinois Republicans, McAuliffe has taken pains to avoid talking about Trump, taking "no official stance" on the presidential race, according to campaign manager Kyle Havers.
Instead, the incumbent has aired ads to bill himself as an "independent voice" who "stands up to the leaders of both parties."
McAuliffe's campaign released a statement Friday re-affirming that independence, calling the Trump-focused ad campaign "an attempt to distract people from Merry Marwig's ties to Mike Madigan."
Marwig, meanwhile, released her own statement saying that while she wasn't responsible for the Trump ad, she "believe[s] McAuliffe and Trump share similar views on women."
Election Day is Tuesday.
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