Illinois Democrats got the opponent they wanted for incumbent Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday, when state Sen. Darren Bailey won the Republican gubernatorial primary.
The race was called by Bailey with about 33% of the votes counted. She got 53.5% of the vote with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan getting 16.9% and former Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin a disappointing 16.5%.
Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is already a heavy favorite to win a second term in November. But he and the Democratic Governors Association spent heavily to help Bailey win the Republican contesteven funding ads that claim to be “100% pro-life.”
Bailey also raised his statewide profile during the pandemic by opposing Pritzker’s COVID-19 measures, suing the governor over a stay-at-home order and having him escorted off the floor of the Legislature for refusing to wear a mask.
Such positions could have won Bailey the approval of staunch Republican voters But they will be met with skepticism or disdain in a state dominated by heavily Democratic Chicago and its increasingly bluer suburbs, and where Democrats control all state offices.
Bailey rejected the notion that he can’t win and criticized “established Republicans” for contributing to decades of mismanagement in the state.
“We are going to send a message to the Republican establishment that we will not be bullied into sacrificing our principles to elect their candidates,” he told a crowd at a campaign stop in rural Illinois this month.
Irvin, who would have been the first black governor of the Land of Lincoln, was seen as one of the leading candidates when he joined the race, with financial backing of billionaire Ken Griffin to the tune of $50 million.
But unlike Bailey and his four other rivals, Irvin avoided talking about abortion or saying whether he voted for Trump, focusing instead on issues like crime in Chicago and legislation signed by Pritzker that he said made surveillance more difficult. He said that he opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.
Irvin also argued that he was the only Republican candidate who could beat Pritzker in November because he could win votes from Republicans, independents and some Democrats.
“The reality is that I am the candidate who can win this race, which is why the attacks are coming,” Irvin said while touring a manufacturing plant.
The other Republican candidates were Sullivan, businessman Gary Rabine, former state senator Paul Schimpf and attorney Max Solomon.
Illinois is one of several states where Democrats have helped conservative or far-right candidates, betting they will be easier to beat in the general election.
In Pennsylvania, for example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro spent more than six figures on additions. attacking state senator Doug Mastriano during the Republican primary, raising his profile and earning him the nomination.
Some Democrats warned that the strategy could backfire in a hostile political environment highlighted by soaring inflation, including record gasoline prices.
Pritzker, whose only rival in the Democratic primary is Beverly Miles, has said he fears no rival in November.
“I will take on anyone from across the aisle and we will win,” Pritzker said.
with post wires