CHICAGO — Billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker is showing no reluctance about pouring his own money into his quest to defeat multimillionaire Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner in the race for Illinois governor.
New state campaign finance reports show that Pritzker has pumped $146.5 million into his campaign, which dwarfs the nearly $68 million Rauner has given his own campaigns since he was elected four years ago. The $234 million in total fundraising by both candidates through the end of September shattered the previous records for Illinois campaign spending.
Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has broken the national self-financing mark former eBay executive Meg Whitman set by giving $144 million of her fortune toward her unsuccessful 2010 Republican campaign for California governor, the Chicago Sun-Times reported .
Rauner is a former private equity investor who has given $95 million to his campaigns since starting his run for the governor’s office in 2013.
Since early 2017, Pritzker’s campaign has spent $135.9 million, compared to $71.5 million by Rauner, the Chicago Tribune reported . They are breaking the previous record total of $112 million that was spent on the Illinois governor’s race four years ago, when Rauner put $65.3 million — including $27 million of his own money — toward defeating Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn.
Recent polls have shown Pritzker with a sizable lead over Rauner, who narrowly survived a GOP primary challenge.
Each man reported income of roughly $55 million last year in tax returns they released this week.
Rauner has tried to distinguish his wealth and background from Pritzker’s, saying during a debate this month that he was a “middle-class kid” who worked his way through school and built his own wealth.
“He is trying to buy political office,” Rauner said of Pritzker. “He’s trying to buy the governorship to be something for the first time in his life because if he wasn’t a trust fund baby, he would be nothing.”
Pritzker said his spending is “worth it” to wrest control of the state from Rauner, under whose leadership Illinois endured a roughly two-year state budget impasse that devastated social services and higher education, and almost caused the state’s credit rating to be downgraded to “junk” status.