J.B. Pritzker adds $7M to campaign fund, topping Dem gov rivals

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J.B. Pritzker speaks with the media after announcing his run for Illinois Governor earlier this month. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker has contributed $7 million to his campaign fund just eight days after announcing his run for that office, his campaign confirmed on Friday.

Pritzker’s contribution elevates him into the position of having the most money to spend so far in the 2018 race.

Last week, Chris Kennedy announced that he has raised more than $1 million in contributions to his gubernatorial campaign from 3,000 individual donors. That includes Kennedy contributing $250,100 of his own money to his campaign.

The wealthy businessmen are expected to spend even more of their own money as the race goes on.

But both will have to compete with the $50.8 million Gov. Bruce Rauner has on hand for his re-election campaign.

Last month, Pritzker contributed $200,000 to his exploratory committee. His campaign confirmed that money is now in his campaign fund. Pritzker, a billionaire venture capitalist, announced on April 6 that he’s running for governor.

Rauner’s Illinois Republican Party — which has sought to link Pritzker to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — seized on the contribution on Friday, saying it’s “proof that he wants to be Madigan’s financial muscle.”

“His deposit comes after Pritzker gave Madigan over $1.2 million in 2016 to stop reform, and just a day after Pritzker met with Madigan insiders and revealed to the press that he’s been conversing with Madigan himself,” party spokesman Steven Yaffe said, referring to a Dan Mihalopoulos column published on the Chicago Sun-Times website Friday morning. “J.B. Pritzker’s talks with Mike Madigan and secret meeting with Madigan insiders reveal his true colors.”

Mihalopoulos reported that Pritzker pitched his candidacy to Larry Dominick — the Republican president of the town of Cicero — and a group of other suburban elected officials and other power players in Berwyn.

With a net worth Forbes estimates at $3.4 billion, Pritzker — like Rauner and Democratic rival Kennedy — is able to self finance his campaign.

Among other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, Ameya Pawar’s campaign last week reported that more than 1,200 people from across the state donated more than $325,000 since he announced his run in January. State Sen. Daniel Biss, who announced his candidacy last month, on Tuesday reported $313,861 in contributions to his Biss for Illinois campaign in the first quarter. Biss says he has $1.5 million cash on hand.

Pritzker’s family founded Hyatt hotels, a prime source of his wealth. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1998, coming in third place in a three-way primary won by Jan Schakowsky. Besides Kennedy, announced candidates include Ald. Pawar (47th); state Sen. Biss; Bob Daiber, a superintendent of schools in Madison County; and business owner Alex Paterakis.

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