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Helped by Madigan, Beaubien must prove independence

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY OCT. 14 AND THEREAFTER - This undated phoprovided by Beaubien campaign shows Dee Beaubien BarringtHills Ill.

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, OCT. 14 AND THEREAFTER - This undated photo provided by the Beaubien campaign shows Dee Beaubien, of Barrington Hills, Ill., the Independent candidate for state representative in Illinois' 52nd District. Beaubien faces Republican David McSweeney in the Nov. 6, 2012 election. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the Dee Beaulien campaign)

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:44AM

SPRINGFIELD — Dee Beaubien wants to pick up where her late husband, Republican state Rep. Mark Beaubien, left off at the Statehouse — but first, she has to prove she really is as independent as her party label suggests.

Beaubien, of Barrington Hills, faces Republican David McSweeney, also of Barrington Hills, in the 52nd House District. The race has shaped up as the most expensive state House race in Illinois this election cycle — and one in which House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has left an indelible imprint.

Since July 1, McSweeney and Beaubien have raised $1.5 million between them, but it’s the source of Beaubien’s campaign dollars that has become an issue in their tight House race.

Though she officially is listed as an independent on the ballot, Beaubien has reported raising more than $428,000 from three campaign funds controlled by the Democratic House speaker and state party chief — not quite half of the $925,000-plus that has come into her political fund since July 1.

The money, along with more than $236,000 of her own cash and more than $117,000 from the abortion-rights organization Personal PAC, has made hers the only legislative campaign to be on the air on Chicago broadcast television. Her own donations in excess of $100,000 caused state contribution caps to be lifted in the race.

McSweeney, an attorney and investment banker who beat Mark Beaubien’s appointed successor Kent Gaffney in the primary and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1998 and 2006, has made the Madigan money a central component of his campaign against Dee Beaubien.

“She’s pretending like she is an independent, but she’s running with the full support of Madigan,” McSweeney said. “I look at this campaign as a campaign against Speaker Madigan.”

Beaubien ridiculed the idea that she is bought and paid for by Madigan.

“I’m nobody’s tool. You did know Mark,” she told the Sun-Times, “and he was nobody’s tool. I’m more independent than that. Nobody tells me what to do.”

McSweeney has raised more than $668,000 since July 1, state records show, with the largest source of funds coming from conservative activist Jack Roeser, his company and family ($160,000-plus); McSweeney himself ($145,000-plus); and a conservative political action committee, GOPAC ($132,500).

Beaubien, meanwhile, has criticized McSweeney on abortion. While he says he favors allowing abortions in cases of reported rape and incest and to preserve the life of the mother, she insists that the “health of the mother” ought to dictate when an abortion occurs and questioned McSweeney’s assertion in a 2005 interview with the conservative blog “Illinois Leader” that women “could just say” they were raped or the victim of incest.

“I think he’s way out of step. If you don’t consider the health of the mother, you’re sadly in the dark ages and you’re not in touch with science,” said Beaubien, for whom Personal PAC has run a radio ad comparing McSweeney and his position on abortion to U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment forced many Republicans on the ballot nationally, including Mitt Romney, to distance themselves from him.

McSweeney derided the ad as a “disgusting campaign tactic,” saying the commercial implies he is the one making Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment. McSweeney said he “absolutely condemns” Akin’s remark.

In another big suburban legislative race, Madigan has emerged yet again as an issue.

Madigan drew state Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) and state Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove) into a newly drawn northwest suburban district that comprises about 85 percent of Sente’s former turf.

As with the Beaubien-McSweeney race, the Sente-Mathias contest has hit the $1.2 million fund-raising mark, with Madigan pumping more than $462,000 in cash and services into Sente’s fund since July 1. That accounts for well over half of the nearly $785,000 Sente raised during the period.

“Over the last two elections, she’s probably received $800,000 from the speaker. Two years ago, she voted to elect him the speaker. She’ll vote for him again [if she is re-elected],” Mathias said. “I’ll vote for anybody but the speaker. That’s a big difference between us.”

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