Democrat J.B. Pritzker has been elected the next governor of Illinois, defeating Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the most expensive gubernatorial race in United States history.
The outcome of this race had been all but assured for months. Rauner was the most unpopular governor running for re-election, having blocked state budgets, attacked labor unions and hired anti-labor economic advisers in a state largely dominated by a Democratic Party with strong union ties. He won his race in 2014 ― a year with historically low voter turnout ― over the equally unpopular Democrat Pat Quinn. It’s no surprise he lost re-election amid a nation- and statewide surge in voter turnout.
What did stand out about the race between Pritzker and Rauner was the cost.
The so-called “Battle of the Billionaires” was the most expensive gubernatorial race in the history of the United States. The cost of the entire election is set to top $284 million, which is $4 million more than the 2010 California governor’s race. The general election alone will exceed $200 million, also higher than the cost of the 2010 California general election.
Both candidates are incredibly rich and were able to donate vast sums of their own money to their respective campaigns.
Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, donated more than $145 million to his own campaign ― a self-funding record total surpassing the $144 million Meg Whitman spent in the 2010 California race. Rauner contributed $50 million to his own campaign and also received $22.5 million from conservative billionaire Ken Griffin. Griffin, a Chicago-based hedge fund manager, is infamous for his 2012 assertion that the rich have an “insufficient influence” over the nation’s politics.
Illinois has teetered between corrupt and unpopular governors for nearly 15 years. Former Gov. George Ryan (R) left office in 2003 under a cloud of scandal that ultimately led to his conviction for corruption in 2006. His successor, Rod Blagojevich (D), is still in prison for a pay-to-play scheme to sell the open Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama in 2009. Quinn and Rauner wound up being two of the most unpopular governors in the nation during their terms in office.
Pritzker’s goal as governor will be to not wind up in the same position as his previous four predecessors.