Illinois Governor's Race Shaping Up to Be Historic

Contest with weird dynamics may end up being the most expensive nonpresidential race ever
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2022 11:10 AM CDT
Illinois Governor's Race Shaping Up to Be Historic
Republican candidate for Illinois governor Darren Bailey.   (AP Photo/John O'Connor, File)

The Illinois primary is Tuesday, and the governor's race is generating national attention. When the dust settles, it may end up being the most expensive nonpresidential race in history, reports the New York Times. The main reason for that is that three extremely rich people are pouring money into the contest—including the Democratic incumbent, Gov. JB Pritzker, notes NPR. But the money is being spent in ways you might not expect.

  • The players: Pritzker is expected to easily win the Democratic primary. The real battle is among six GOP candidates vying for the chance to face him in November, per WBEZ. Of them, the front-runners are far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey, who's endorsed by former President Trump, and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, a more moderate candidate backed by the state's GOP establishment. Bailey has a double-digit lead in the latest polls, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

  • The money: This is where things get weird. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association are spending millions on behalf of Republican Bailey, evidently because they think Pritzker would be able to beat him in the general election. "No candidate for any office is believed to have ever spent more to meddle in another party’s primary," per the Times, which puts that figure at $35 million. Bailey is also getting millions from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein, because Uihlein likes Bailey's politics. Irvin, meanwhile, has received $50 million from Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin, who runs the Citadel hedge fund, per NPR.
  • What Bailey says: "I think it's obvious Gov. Pritzker thinks I'm the easiest candidate to beat, and my message to Gov. Pritzker is 'be careful what you wish for because it's coming right toward you,'" said the Republican, per NPR. "The people of Illinois are absolutely fed up with the state of our state. They're ready for something different."
  • What Irving says: "This has never happened in the history of our nation that a Democrat would spend this much money stopping one individual from becoming the nominee of the Republican Party," Irvin tells the Times. Adds benefactor Griffin: Pritzker "is terrified of facing Richard Irvin in the general election."
  • What Pritzker says: "It's a mess over there," he tells the Times of the GOP field. They're "all terrible. So I'll take any one of them and I'll beat them."
(More JB Pritzker stories.)

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