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Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democrat J.B. Pritzker win primaries in Illinois governor’s race

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to his supporters after winning the Republican nomination Tuesday.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to his supporters after winning the Republican nomination Tuesday.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

The race for Illinois governor will be a battle between two deep-pocketed candidates who’ve already sunk more than $120 million combined into the contest, putting it on pace to become the costliest such campaign in U.S. history.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy former private equity investor, defeated conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives on Tuesday for the GOP nomination.

“We are in a critical time, a critical turning point in Illinois,” Rauner told supporters. “I am humbled by this victory. You have given me a chance to win the battle against corruption that plagues Illinois.”

He will face Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker, an investor and heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune. Pritzker easily won the primary over Chris Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; and Daniel Biss, 40, a state senator who campaigned as the “middle-class candidate.”

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Pritzker, 53, already has spent more than $70 million to bankroll his campaign, while Rauner has put in about $50 million and has received millions more from his wealthy friends in the business community. The Illinois gubernatorial campaign is expected to be the country’s most expensive governor’s race ever, topping California’s 2010 contest.

In an interview with the Associated Press after the race was called, Pritzker declared the victory “amazing” and said he’s “really excited.”

“We’ve got some work to do for the next eight months because we’re going to go out and beat Bruce Rauner,” he said.

Rauner, 61, took advantage of a national GOP wave four years ago to pull off a surprising victory in a state otherwise dominated by Democrats and win his first political office. Rauner’s personal wealth is just shy of $1 billion, but Pritzker is worth several times more.

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Ives raised just $4 million — less than any of the other prominent candidates, — but attacked the governor’s conservative credentials in scathing TV ads. One of them, which the chairman of the state GOP decried as a “cowardly attempt to stoke political division,” portrays actors mockingly thanking Rauner for not doing enough to restrict illegal immigration, abortion and transgender bathroom rights.

In other races on the Illinois primary ballot, former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn — whom Rauner ousted in 2014 — was locked in a tough competition with state Sen. Kwame Raoul for state attorney general. There also are numerous contested congressional primary races, including progressive candidate Marie Newman’s challenge to seven-term Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski.


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