Pritzker price tag: Victory in gov race costly, no matter how you slice it

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Democrat J.B. Pritzker celebrates at an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago after beating incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Illinois gubernatorial election, Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

About $72.90 a vote.

That’s the bottom line for Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s record-breaking gubernatorial campaign, based on campaign finance filings and vote totals available on Tuesday.

The billionaire contributed $171,832,734.95 of his fortune to his campaign, breaking the previous national record for a self-financing candidate. How much of that he actually spent won’t be available until final campaign finance records are filed.

He received 2,356,991 votes with 99 percent of the precincts tallied. That breaks down to $72.90 per ballot, assuming he spends it all.

And that also treats all of his spending as counting toward his general election vote total, rather than breaking it down between the primary and general election. If the $68,370,447.39 Pritzker spent through mid-April on his successful primary win is deducted from his total contributions, it leaves him with $103,462,287.56 spent on the general election alone.

That breaks down to about $43.90 a vote for the ballots cast for him on Tuesday alone.

A Chicago Sun-Times analysis the day after Pritzker won the Democratic nomination put his primary spending at $122.02 per vote.

Gov. Bruce Rauner raised $85,716,849.19 since the beginning of 2016 in contributions from himself and others. Assuming he spent all of that on the race, and it all counts toward his final tally, his 1,716,331 vote total breaks down to $49.94 a vote.

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters after losing his re-election bid. | AP Photo/Matt Marton

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters after losing his re-election bid. | AP Photo/Matt Marton

If the $62,737,749.34 Rauner spent on the primary is deducted from his total, he is left with $22,979,099.85 to spend on the general election. That breaks down to about $13.39 a vote.

As high as it was, Pritzker’s per-vote spending isn’t even close to the Illinois record.

That was set by millionaire investor M. Blair Hull. He spent roughly $30 million of his own fortune on his failed 2004 U.S. Senate bid. That questionable investment broke down to $223.59 a vote for the 134,173 ballots that put him in third place in the Democratic primary.

But Pritzker’s contributions already bought him a place in the record books, breezing past Republican Meg Whitman, who set the previous self-financing record in 2010, when the former eBay honcho churned $144 million of her own fortune into her losing battle against Democrat Jerry Brown.

The combined $255 million that Pritzker and Rauner raised in their bitter battle falls short of the combined $280 million that Brown and Whitman ultimately spent.

But Pritzker, worth an estimated $3.2 billion, set another new record on Wednesday.

Forbes dubbed him “America’s Richest Politician.” He took the title away from President Donald Trump.


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