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No hedging this time? Richest Illinoisan vows to go ‘all in’ to beat Pritzker — Dems see Griffin financing ‘Rauner 2.0’

“I’m going to make sure that if he runs again, that I am all in to support the candidate who will beat him,” Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin reportedly said. “He doesn’t deserve to be the governor of our state.”

Ken Griffin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last year.
Ken Griffin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last year.
Ashlee Rezin; Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin on Wednesday pledged to go “all in” to support a candidate who can beat Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a move state Democrats derided as an attempt by the richest man in Illinois to “finance Bruce Rauner 2.0.”

Griffin, who is the founder and CEO of Chicago-based Citadel, talked about his plans to fund a challenger to the Democratic governor at a New York Times sponsored business news event Wednesday.

He criticized Pritzker’s governing style, saying it’s “all about politics. It’s not about people.”

“I’m going to make sure that if he runs again, that I am all in to support the candidate who will beat him,” Griffin said, according to a report by Crain’s. “He doesn’t deserve to be the governor of our state.”

The billionaire’s camp did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. A Griffin spokeswoman said she did not know whether he plans to back one of the four Republicans already running in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

It’s also not clear if “all in” means Griffin plans to match Pritzker dollar for dollar.

Griffin is worth an estimated $21 billion, according to Forbes, which ranked him 47th richest in its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. The business publication scored him the richest resident of Illinois as recently as last year.

Pritzker, worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes, pumped $171 million of his personal fortune into his 2018 bid to oust Rauner, a Republican venture capitalist then in his first term as governor. Griffin donated a total of $36,089,295.18 to Rauner’s campaigns, including “in-kind” contributions for a personally owned air craft.

On Wednesday, Pritzker’s campaign noted those donations from the Democrat’s political nemesis, saying Griffin “financed” Rauner’s “disastrous tenure” as governor.

“Now he is eager to once again elect someone who would hold our budget hostage, waste taxpayer money, ruin our credit rating, and destroy programs that keep our residents healthy and safe,” campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said in a statement.

The Democratic Party of Illinois also weighed in.

“We look forward to finding out who Ken Griffin picks to be Bruce Rauner 2.0,” Jake Lewis, the party’s deputy director, said in a statement. “While Mr. Griffin attempts to satisfy some personal vendetta and the crowded field of radical GOP candidates trip over themselves to win his attention, Illinois Democrats remain focused on delivering wins on the issues that actually matter to the people of this state.”

Last November, Griffin used his largess to help hand Democrats two sizeable losses, funding efforts to derail the state’s move to a graduated income tax — one of Pritzker’s main policy initiatives — and another aimed at defeating former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride.

Kilbride became the first to lose a retention bid on the state’s highest court.

Republican businessman Gary Rabine, left; state Sen. Darren Bailey, center; Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, right.
Republican businessman Gary Rabine, left; state Sen. Darren Bailey, center; Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, right.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file; Facebook; Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times file

Republicans currently vying to unseat Pritzker next year include state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, suburban businessman Gary Rabine and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan.

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, in early January.
Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, in early January.
From Facebook

None have received a dime from Griffin so far.

That could signify that Griffin — whose backing could help a GOP candidate be competitive in the race — is hedging his bets before signing any checks.