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(Bloomberg) -- Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire Democrat seeking a second term in November, will face a downstate conservative backed by former President Donald Trump as the state’s Republicans try to regain a foothold in a largely blue state.
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Pritzker, 57, won the Democratic primary against former Army Major Beverly Miles with 93% of the vote, according to the Associated Press. Darren Bailey, a Bible-quoting farmer who had received an endorsement from Trump just days before the Illinois primary, got 57% of the vote, beating a field of five other Republicans. That included Richard Irvin, mayor of the second-largest city in Illinois, whose campaign had received $50 million in contributions from Ken Griffin, the state’s richest man.
There are primaries in Colorado, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, with a gubernatorial primary in New York. New York’s incumbent Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul also won the party’s primary. She will face US Representative Lee Zeldin, who prevailed in a field that included Andrew Giuliani, a former Trump White House aide and son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Tuesday’s primaries took place amid a political environment marked by recent US Supreme Court rulings overturning abortion, and an expansion of gun rights. Earlier Tuesday, a former White House aide provided gripping testimony to the House committee hearings on Jan. 6 that offered a vivid portrait of a violent and out-of-control Trump in his presidency’s final weeks.
“In the face of rising right-wing extremism, Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Stratton are the only candidates ready to fight back to protect the rights of women, Black and brown Americans, our LGBTQ+ neighbors, union workers, and every Illinoisan who wishes to live a life of their own design,” Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton said in a statement after the results were announced.
Pritzker has contributed about $125 million of his own fortune into this campaign knowing he’d confront a Republican opponent backed by Griffin, another billionaire who last November said he was “all in” to support a candidate to defeat the incumbent.
“I believe Richard Irvin would have been a terrific Governor, and I am proud to have supported his campaign,” Griffin said in an emailed statement Tuesday after the polls closed. “His proven success in lowering taxes, addressing crime, creating jobs and taking on struggles facing Illinois families offered an encouraging and stark alternative to J.B. Pritzker’s agenda for Illinois. The unprecedented tens of millions of dollars spent by Pritzker and national Democrats in the Republican Primary to avoid facing Richard in the General Election demonstrated he was the right candidate.”
Now, Pritzker must prove to Illinois voters that he deserves a second term. While he has presided over a period when Illinois’s fiscal outlook has improved, he has been criticized for pandemic mitigations seen as too restrictive by Republicans, rising crime and most recently the announced headquarters departures of well-known, large companies including Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Citadel, Griffin’s hedge fund.
Bailey’s campaign had collected $9 million from billionaire Richard Uihlein, a long-time Trump supporter. While Irvin was seen as an early favorite, Bailey appealed to the anti-abortion conservative base and Trump supporters within the party. Bailey, 56, opposed Pritzker’s mask mandate, even challenging it in court, and once sponsored a resolution to separate Chicago from the rest of the state.
His message to the most conservative voters seems to have overcome the spending power of Irvin. The mayor had used the millions from Griffin to saturate the state with about 28,000 television ads, more than twice as many as Bailey from May 9 through June 19, according to data from the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political campaigns.
“Billionaires like Pritzker can’t relate to the struggles of working people and taxpayers like us,” Bailey said after he won the Illinois Republican gubernatorial primary tapping into his farmer roots and image of rolling up his sleeves to work hard. “We are all here because we know that Illinois is in trouble. Decade after decade of mismanagement in Springfield, back-to-back billionaire governors who don’t understand the struggles of working people.”
Bailey said his focus will be getting state spending under control, supporting law enforcement, growing businesses and giving parents more voice in their children’s education. He said policies by President Joe Biden and Pritzker are contributing to inflation and the governor’s lockdowns during the height of the pandemic damaged small businesses.
“Now is the time for regular working people like us to have our voices heard,” Bailey said.
In other Illinois primary contests, Trump-endorsed Representative Mary Miller beat fellow Republican Representative Rodney Davis to represent a redrawn congressional district, according to AP.
Multiple Members of Congress Will Lose Re-election on Tuesday
US Representative Danny Davis led progressive Kina Collins and AP declared Democrat US Representative Sean Casten the winner over fellow Democrat US Representative Marie Newman. Newman has publicly said that she got an abortion when she was 19 years old.
Nebraska held a special election Tuesday to replace former US Representative Jeff Fortenberry, with Republican Mike Flood leading Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks by 2.4 percentage points with 61% of ballots counted.
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