Billionaire Griffin drops another $25 million into Republican Irvin’s war chest as part of ‘all in’ bid to unseat Pritzker

Last November — months before Irvin even entered the race — Griffin pledged to go “all in” to support a candidate who can beat the Democratic incumbent.

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Hedge Fund billionaire Ken Griffin, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Hedge Fund billionaire Ken Griffin, left, in 2018; Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, center, in 2019; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, in March.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; Patrick Kunzer/Daily Herald; Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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Billionaire Ken Griffin has donated another $25 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Republican gubernatorial bid — meaning Illinois voters should prepare to see even more of an onslaught of television ads and mailers ahead of the June 28 primary.

Griffin contributed the additional $25 million on Monday, according to a report filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections on Thursday. The hedge-fund founder last contributed $20 million to Irvin’s campaign in February.

Campaign records through March show Irvin has spent $10.1 million on “media placements.” He had raised $22.8 million, which included Griffin’s earlier $20 million. As of March 31, the campaign had $10.9 million cash on hand.

Irvin is trying to survive a six-candidate Republican primary race that could ultimately pit Griffin’s billions against the fortune of another billionaire, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

In mid-January, Pritzker donated $90 million to his campaign fund, with some of the money already funneled to other Democratic organizations in the state.

Pritzker spent $171 million of his own money to beat former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018, a race in which Griffin backed Rauner.

And the bad blood between the billionaires has only kept boiling since Griffin spent more than $50 million to defeat Pritzker’s graduated income tax constitutional amendment in 2020.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and hedge fund founder Ken Griffin

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, left; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, center; Hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, right.

Sun-Times file photos.

Last November — months before Irvin even entered the race — Griffin pledged to go “all in” to support a candidate who can beat the Democratic incumbent. Democrats cast it as an attempt to “finance Bruce Rauner 2.0.”

Irvin’s campaign declined to comment on the latest influx of Griffin cash.

But Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Natalie Edelstein said it shows Irvin is not doing well, taking a dig at the Republican’s strategy of focusing on TV ads rather than personal appearances.

“Richard Irvin is in trouble and Ken Griffin knows it,” Edelstein said. “Voters can see this exactly for what it is: 25 million reasons for Irvin to keep hiding.”

And Irvin’s chief GOP primary rival Darren Bailey’s campaign spokesman called Irvin a “handpicked puppet of the political elites who lacks the courage to do what’s right.”

The state senator from downstate Xenia’s campaign used the infusion of cash as an excuse to repeat all of its previous digs – criticizing Irvin, who has said he’s “pro-life,” for keeping silent about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion about overturning Roe v. Wade and over ads the Irvin campaign is running claiming Bailey, a staunch Donald Trump supporter, voted for Joe Biden.

State Sen. Darren Bailey in May.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, a candidate for governor, speaks Tuesday in Chicago about the leak of a SCOTUS draft opinion that signals Roe v Wade may be overturned.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

“It takes a lot of money to compete in a GOP primary when you’re a pro-abortion Democrat running on lies and misinformation from your basement,” Bailey campaign spokesman Joe DeBose said.

“I know Irvin voted for Joe Biden, so it only makes sense for him to campaign from the basement like him. Voters deserve a Governor who faces the public, answers the tough questions, and leads.”

In addition to Bailey and Irvin, four other Republicans are running in the June primary in hopes of facing Pritzker in November.

The field includes Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Hazel Crest lawyer Max Solomon.

Republican candidates for governor Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf and Jesse Sullivan.

Republican candidates for governor Gary Rabine, left; Paul Schimpf, center; and Jesse Sullivan, right.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file; Facebook; Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times file

But the most heated competition has been between Irvin and Bailey — who has caught the eye of his own well-heeled supporter. Lake Forest mega donor Richard Uihlein has donated more than $2.5 million to the southern Illinois Republican’s campaign.

The founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund, Griffin is Illinois’ richest person, according to Forbes, with a fortune estimated at $26.7 billion. Pritzker’s net worth is estimated at $3.6 billion.

Tina Sfondeles reported from Chicago, Taylor Avery from Springfield

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