Pritzker helped Bailey win — but now governor would rather all the credit go to Trump
With his reelection battle immediately in full swing, Pritzker will transition from luring Republican primary voters to vote for Bailey to tying the state senator from southern Illinois to the former president.
Darren Bailey was clearly Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s chosen Republican candidate for governor, but on Wednesday the Democratic governor launched into his new emphasis, that the downstate farmer is “Donald Trump’s candidate for governor.”
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times the morning after the primary, the Chicago Democrat appeared to have no regrets in boosting a far-right GOP candidate for governor or qualms about widespread expectations that Pritzker again will self-fund his own campaign to record levels.
With his reelection battle immediately in full swing, Pritzker will transition from luring Republican primary voters to vote for Bailey to tying the state senator from southern Illinois to the former president, who was very popular with GOP primary voters, but, Pritzker believes, not so much with those who will be voting in November.
The Chicago Democrat also hopes to tout his accomplishments as governor and attract voters who are upset about the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“I’m running a campaign to get Democrats elected and to beat Republicans,” Pritzker said when asked whether helping the primary campaign of a conservative Republican could backfire. “And I want people to know what we believe in and what they believe in. And so, the messages that I’ve talked about on TV are all messages about amplifying the differences between Democrats and Republicans.”
The governor — and Democrats across the country — have backhandedly helped Republican primary candidates they’d rather face in the general election by dubbing them “too conservative” in ads and mailers. In Illinois, that strategy in part helped Bailey sail to victory on Tuesday – more than 42 percentage points ahead of his closest primary rival.
As for Pritzker, with 99.3% of precincts reporting, the governor garnered more than 753,795 votes against nominal Democratic primary rival Beverly Miles. That’s just 31,883 shy of the votes of all of the GOP primary candidates combined, suggesting Bailey will face an uphill battle to the top.
The University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Sabato’s Crystal Ball on Wednesday immediately shifted its prognostication for the Illinois governor’s race to “Safe Democratic.” Named after editor in chief Larry J. Sabato, the non-partisan newsletter had rated the outcome “Likely Democratic” prior to primary night.
But that doesn’t mean it still won’t cost Pritzker money.
Four years ago, he broke records spending $171.5 million of his personal fortune to beat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
And so far, the billionaire governor has already dumped $90 million into his reelection campaign, even though he faced a primary opponent he never bothered to campaign against. Miles finished with only 8.2% of the Democratic Primary vote to Pritzker’s 91.8%.
But the governor makes no apologies for funding a campaign by writing checks.
“What you see is what you get,” he said.
“I’m not accepting any money from special interests. I’m not owned by anybody else,” Pritzker said. “There’s no backer in the shadows behind me.”
Beyond preserving his ability to use his millions to boost his “message,” Pritzker said he does support campaign finance reform efforts, including “more disclosure.”
“Three elements of ethics reform passed since I became governor and part of that has been the exposure of lobbyists and consultants, making sure that people know who’s backing whom, and what it is that they stand for,” Pritzker said.
And for what — or who — they stand against.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Pritzker criticized Trump’s endorsement of Bailey, which the downstate state senator had sought for months.
“Let me be clear. Someone who seeks out and accepts the endorsement of a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic twice-impeached former president does not deserve to come anywhere near this state’s highest office,” Pritzker told his supporters at the Marriott Marquis on South Prairie Avenue.
“Darren Bailey cannot side with the insurrectionists at the Capitol, assert that the 2020 election was stolen and say that women and their doctors should be jailed for having an abortion even in cases of rape and incest and expect to be handed the keys to the governor’s office. Not in Illinois.”
While Bailey is expected to bring out the same Republican voters who propelled him to a decisive primary victory, Pritzker was not writing them off.
Pritzker claimed there are practical reasons for some of the state’s most conservative voters to choose him, despite polling that has shown opposition to abortion and support for Trump remain key factors in reasons GOP voters — in Illinois and beyond — support a candidate.
“I believe in civil rights and of course you know fighting for fiscal responsibility in our state which is, I wouldn’t call that a cultural issue or social issue, but it certainly affects whether you can fund mental health services or substance abuse treatment or fund police,” Pritzker said.
“And frankly, I think there is a divide certainly between the extremist MAGA Trumpy Republicans and the Democratic Party, which is actually getting big things done for working families.”