Deaths at Quincy veterans home reach the Illinois campaign trail

CHICAGO — The deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois, lit up the campaign trail Thursday.

As the Rauner administration and lawmakers wrestle with how to fix it, the blame game continues.

Democratic candidate for Governor J.B. Pritzker and State Comptroller Susana Mendoza attacked.

“Veterans deserve better than staggering incompetence that this administration has shown,” Pritzker said.

Mendoza set her sights on the Republican running to replace her as comptroller, Darlene Senger.

Senger is at the center of a controversial e-mail, first reported by WBEZ Radio. Last year, while serving as Rauner’s deputy chief of staff, Senger suggested spinning the Legionnaires’ outbreak, writing: “We can maybe tie this back to (Senator Tammy) Duckworth.”

“Who does something like that?” Mendoza said. “Governor Rauner’s handpicked candidate for comptroller, that’s who.”

Duckworth, a disabled war veteran, ran the agency that oversees the Quincy home under Governors Blagojevich and Quinn.

A spokeswoman for Duckworth told WGN News the senator is not going to dignify any of this with a response.

But Mendoza is demanding Senger apologize to Duckworth.

“It’s the most reprehensible e-mail that I think a public servant, or a so-called public servant, could send,” she said.

The Senger campaign declined WGN News’s request for an interview but said in a statement:

The simple, bipartisan fact is that for years, including the past Blagojevich and Quinn administrations, our veterans homes suffered from chronic underfunding …. If we choose to ignore the past, systemic failures to fund our veteran's programs, then we are destined to continue to face these challenges in the future and that was the point of my comment…

The Rauner campaign also put out a statement saying:

Governor Rauner took immediate action to address the problems at Quincy….It’s shameful that JB Pritzker is playing politics instead of focusing on how to provide the very best care for our veterans.

The Rauner administration is proposing building a new $245 million veterans home in Quincy. Pritzker said he will personally call Springfield Democrats to urge them to sign off. But lawmakers sound less than certain they’ll ok the proposal.

At this point it’s anybody guess whether Democrats will sign off on Rauner’s proposed Quincy fix. Politics could dominate this issue that everybody says should not be politicized.