The stage is set for the already-expensive race for Illinois governor to become the costliest gubernatorial election in U.S. history.
J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic primary Tuesday while incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner survived a challenge from the right to hold on to the Republican nomination. Both are billionaires who have dug deeply into their own pockets for their respective campaigns, to the tune of a combined $120 million this cycle alone.
A venture capitalist and heir to the Hyatt fortune, Pritzker is the fifth-richest person in Illinois, according to Forbes, which estimated his net worth to be around $3.5 billion.
Pritzker’s immense personal fortune allowed him to entirely self-fund his campaign, pouring more than $69.5 million into his committee in the months leading up to the primary Election Day.
That cash bought Pritzker a massive field operation and, perhaps most significantly, hours of advertising airtime, inundating television airwaves to tout his endorsements and vowing to “stand up” to President Donald Trump and Rauner, a message that lifted him to primary victory over five other candidates, including businessman Chris Kennedy and State Sen. Daniel Biss.
Rauner, who spent a record-breaking $65 million on his entire 2014 campaign and reloaded his committee with another $50 million in December 2016, defeated conservative challenger state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the GOP primary Tuesday.
Rauner bought plenty of airtime as well, running ads even before he announced his re-election campaign, then pivoting to attack Pritzker well ahead of primary election voting.
Now, with the primary behind them, two of Illinois’ wealthiest businessmen-turned-politicians can turn their full attention to one another.
With seemingly endless wealth at their disposal, the gloves will certainly come off in the battle of the billionaires, which may very well surpass the most expensive gubernatorial race in the nation's history - California’s roughly $280 million campaign in 2010.