Tony McCombie doesn't like to admit that she's Gov. Bruce Rauner's candidate in House District 71. But, it's for that reason that Illinois voters should choose the Republican Savanna mayor over incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike Smiddy on Nov. 8.

There's a proxy war raging in District 71 between Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan. And, in that fight, we'll side with Rauner almost every time. 

Both McCombie and Rep. Smiddy proclaim their independence from the state's two quarreling power-brokers. Their cries of autonomy are, at best, disingenuous. McCombie's $1 million campaign is almost single-handedly bankrolled by the millionaire governor. Unions and Madigan's state Democratic Party are funding Smiddy's re-election bid. And, over the years, the few instances where Smiddy broke with Madigan were clearly out of election-cycle political necessity. More often than not, Smiddy has done as told by his paymasters, the very same special interests who've bankrupted the state.

Take, for instance, Smiddy's non-vote vote this past year on Madigan's ridiculous go-nowhere budget proposal that was $8 billion out of whack. Smiddy could have stood for reason and fiscal responsibility. He could have put his foot down and protested deficit spending that's resulted in the nation's worst credit rating. Instead, he took the offend-no-one approach, voting "present," and offering a bogus justification for his fecklessness.

Conflict of interest, he claimed, because the bill contained back pay for his previous job with Illinois Department of Corrections. The excuse is nonsense. If true, then lawmakers couldn't vote on much of anything. They vote on their pay and per-diems every budget cycle. At least, they do when they bother voting on a budget at all. 

Smiddy this year chose the campaign-backing American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees over voters when attempting to rob Rauner of his mandated position to negotiate with the unions. Smiddy has made it clear whose side he's on and it isn't the taxpayers of Illinois. 

McCombie and Smiddy both support redistricting reform. McCombie correctly calls for adjustments to future retirement benefits that, decades into the future, could finally put Illinois on solid financial footing. She rightly pushes back against some of Rauner's most draconian, anti-union measures, while realizing that it's those interests that long ago bought the political class and ran Illinois into the ground.

Neither Smiddy nor McCombie are fantastic candidates. But McCombie offers an upside that simply hasn't materialized during Smiddy's tenure.

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Again, the hotly contested race for Illinois 71 is really about choosing between Rauner and Madigan. Neither candidate likes to admit it, but the piles of cash flowing in from Chicago and Springfield tell the real story.

And it's a tale of an incumbent who's proven himself incapable of standing for reform. He's lacked the audacity to challenge those who fund his campaign and bankrupt Illinois. 

Smiddy was bought and paid for years ago.

The same will probably be said for McCombie in two years. But, at the very least, she's owned by the people demanding reform. 

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, City Editor Dan Bowerman, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.