Our Pledge To You


J.B. and the Gov: The One Percent takes on The One Percent

Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger J.B. Pritzker participated in a televised debate Wednesday night put on by ABC 7 with the League of Women Voters. | ABC7 Chicago

Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger J.B. Pritzker participated in a televised debate Wednesday night put on by ABC 7 with the League of Women Voters. | ABC7 Chicago

The One Percent is fighting it out. Isn’t that rich?

The gubernatorial debate televised Wednesday on ABC-7 between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker was a slugfest of name-calling and character assassination.

He’s a liar, one says. A failure, says the other. Bank robber. Trust fund baby.

Two uber-wealthy men fight for power, they debate over who is the richest.


“I’m being challenged by someone who’s outspending me three to one,” Rauner said.

“Let’s all remember that Gov. Rauner outspent his prior opponent by two to one,” Pritzker said.

“If he wasn’t a trust fund baby, he would be nothing,” Rauner said of Pritzker.

The governor is “hiding money in the Cayman Islands,” Pritzker told Rauner. “You moved money abroad.”

In the final weeks of this long campaign, it’s come down to which candidate is more privileged.

Ah, the perils of being rich.

Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a Cook County inspector general investigation concluded that Pritzker received more than $330,000 in property tax and fee reductions in a “scheme to defraud” the government.

The report alleged that Pritzker improperly won the tax breaks in part by disconnecting toilets to make his Gold Coast mansion uninhabitable.

But Pritzer says he simply applied to lower his taxes “just like 50,000 other people in the county do.” The tax reassessment was not an attempt to cheat, he said. The toilets and other changes to the home were part of an evolving “renovation.”

All the same, Pritzker has pledged to return the $330,000 to the county coffers. Pocket change, for him.

During the debate, Pritzker blasted Rauner, who made his riches as a venture capitalist, over his financial ties to a Willowbrook company run by Sterigenics International Inc. Republicans in that area and other community leaders want it shut down, claiming it emits a toxic, cancer-causing gas.

Rauner, in response, claimed he no longer has a business interest in Sterigenics.

One billionaire may be gaming the tax system to make even more money. The other, a multi-multi-millionaire, may have grown even richer by investing in an alleged polluter.

Rauner even accused Pritzker of “trying to buy the governorship.” Rauner would know.

In 2014, Rauner, then a political novice, won the state’s highest office by beating Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn was a flawed incumbent, but the unknown Rauner enjoyed a big assist from his massive wealth.

And now comes Pritzker. He has raised more than $148 million for his campaign as of Friday. About $146 million of that is his own money, according to data compiled by Reform for Illinois, a non-partisan, political watchdog group.

As Pritzker’s opponents in the Democratic primary discovered, it’s hard to compete with a billionaire.

Rauner has raised a comparatively measly $78 million, mostly his own. Total campaign spending, including the primaries, stands at $248 million; by Nov. 6, it could break the national record set in the 2010 California governor’s race.

Libertarian candidate Kash Jackson and conservative hopeful William “Sam” McCann also are on the ballot but have been languishing in the single digits in recent polls.

“I believe that with all the money that gets spent in politics, that in this race, Illinois is worth it,” Pritzker said during the debate.

“Is this the best we can do?” voters may wonder. Another super rich businessman in the governor’s office?

Voters will have to decide whether it’s “worth it” to them.

The next scheduled joint appearance of Rauner and Pritzker will be 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9 when the Sun-Times Editorial Board meets to consider its endorsement in this race. You can watch the live stream on the Sun-Times Voting Guide or on the Sun-Times Facebook page

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.