Pritzker signals reelection bid with $35M campaign contribution

The billionaire governor has not publicly confirmed he’s running again in 2022, saying his top priority is managing the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker adjusts his mask during a Thursday press conference at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop. The billionaire Democrat put $35 million in his campaign fund last week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker adjusts his mask during a Thursday press conference at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop. The billionaire Democrat put $35 million in his campaign fund last week.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritkzer has ducked questions about whether he’ll run for reelection next year, but his sizable checkbook seems to have betrayed him.

After weeks of shutting down reporters about his widely expected but still unofficial bid for a second term, a campaign finance disclosure released Friday night revealed the billionaire Democrat dropped a cool $35 million into his political warchest a week ago.

That would be a considerable down payment on a 2022 run, but Pritzker has yet to commit to it publicly. The heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune has said his top priority is managing the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m focused on doing what’s right for the people of the state of Illinois and not on the politics,” Pritzker told the Sun-Times last week, three days after his campaign notified state election authorities of the hefty contribution.

Representatives for the governor’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The $35 million contribution isn’t exorbitant for Pritzker, whom Forbes has dubbed the richest politician in the nation with a net worth of $3.5 billion.

It’s only a fifth of the $171 million Pritzker spent to defeat multi-millionaire Republican ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018, a clash of investment titans that went down as one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in American history.

And it’s well short of the $58 million Pritzker dumped into an ill-fated ballot initiative last fall to amend the state constitution to allow for a graduated state income tax system. The governor was outdueled in November by fellow billionaire Ken Griffin, whose $53 million helped persuade voters to reject the plan.

That marked a serious loss for Pritzker, who weathered another political blow earlier this month when U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly won the race to lead the Democratic Party of Illinois over the governor’s preferred candidate, South Side Ald. Michelle Harris.

So far, three Republican candidates have joined the Republican primary field for governor: state Sen. Darren Bailey, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf and businessman Gary Rabine.

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