Money Matters: The Illinois Gubernatorial Race

Mar 21, 2018

Credit Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner will square off this fall in the general election for Illinois governor.  Each pumped millions into their campaigns to win primary races.  Their return on investment shows just how costly this race will be.  

Rauner narrowly won his party’s primary, but he was far ahead in the amount of money raised. The first-term governor raised $215 per vote, and his challenger Jeanne Ives just $12 per vote. Ives wound up with roughly 49 percent support among those who cast ballots. 

Colin Williams of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform said Ives faced an uphill battle, showing money matters.

“The success that Jeanne  Ives had is a glimmer of hope for people who aren’t independently wealthy to run," said Williams. "Now that being said, Representative Ives received $2.5 million from a single mega donor: Richard Uihlein. That would kind of send the message that  you do need someone wealthy behind your campaign.”

By contrast, the Democrats’ nominee J.B. Pritzker raised $124 per vote.  That’s over $100 more per vote than his nearest competitors, Chris Kennedy and state Sen. Daniel Biss.

Williams said the winners' huge amount of campaign cash makes it difficult for those who aren’t independently wealthy to run successfully.

“When you don’t have money and your opponent is able to spend $70 million dollars against you, crushing your name recognition, crushing your reputation before you even have a chance to make a name for yourself independently," he said. "It is a huge barrier.”

Most predict this gubernatorial race will be the most expensive in U.S. history.