PEORIA, Ill. — Darren Bailey, a far-right state senator who was the beneficiary of an extraordinary effort by Democrats to help his candidacy, won the Republican primary for governor in Illinois.
Bailey, whose landslide victory was called by The Associated Press on Tuesday, bested five other Republicans in the race to oppose Gov. JB Pritzker, a billionaire Democrat who spent $35 million to influence the Republican primary.
The race for governor of Illinois is on track to become the most expensive campaign for a non-presidential office in US history. More than $100 million has been spent on television advertising in the primaries.
A southern Illinois farmer who received the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump at a rally on Saturday, Bailey was virtually unknown in state politics before defeating a Republican incumbent in the 2018 primary for a House district. .
One of his first legislative proposals once in office was a bill to take Chicago out of state. When the pandemic began, he refused to wear a mask during legislative sessions and sued Mr. Pritzker to block public health mitigation efforts.
In 2020, Mr. Bailey advanced to the State Senate, where he and a few other conservative legislators from southern and southeastern Illinois are collectively known as “the Eastern Bloc.”
Mr. Bailey, 56, began his campaign for governor in February 2021, a month into his term in the state Senate. He has spent the last 16 months touring the state’s Republican precincts.
In that time, he garnered enough support from Trump-aligned conservative voters to survive a $50 million primary campaign by Mayor Richard C. Irvin of Aurora, who had the backing of hedge fund executive Kenneth Griffin, and a campaign by $12.6 million from Jesse Sullivan, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who moved to his hometown of Petersburg in central Illinois to run for governor.
Bailey had two primary sponsors: Pritzker, whose relentless ad campaign criticized Irvin while highlighting Bailey’s conservative credentials, and Richard Uihlein, the Chicago-area mega-donor who has endorsed a variety of far-right Republican candidates. . Mr. Uihlein has spent $17 million so far on Mr. Bailey’s campaign and a political action committee that attacked Mr. Irvin.
Mr. Pritzker will now be a heavy favorite to win the general election against Mr. Bailey. Had Irvin, a moderate with an inspiring personal story, no ties to Trump and access to hundreds of millions of dollars more, advanced, the race was expected to be highly competitive in November.
In an interview last week in Green Valley, Illinois, Mr. Bailey expressed confidence that he would be competitive with Mr. Pritzker in a general election even though Mr. Trump lost Illinois by 17 percentage points.
“Life is different now with Joe Biden, and especially with JB Pritzker,” Bailey said. “Life is very different now for Illinois than it was then. And I think people realize that.”