Pritzker’s $35 million gambit: Hedge against GOP’s ‘illegitimate attacks’ or just more ‘throwing money at problems?’

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at the James R. Thompson Center last week.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at the James R. Thompson Center last week. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

At an unrelated news conference Monday, Pritzker doubled down on what he’s previously told reporters asking him about his re-election plans, insisting he’s “focused on getting us past this pandemic keeping people safe and healthy in the state of Illinois” not on politics.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said the $35 million he funneled into his campaign fund doesn’t signal the start of a pricy battle to retain elected office, but rather is a “preventative measure” to protect against Republican attacks on the “Democratic agenda.”

But one Republican vying for the chance to become the next governor said it’s typical of Pritzker, whose “answer to everything is raising taxes and throwing money at problems instead of solving them.”

At an unrelated news conference Monday, Pritzker doubled down on what he’s previously told reporters asking him about his re-election plans, insisting he’s “focused on getting us past this pandemic keeping people safe and healthy in the state of Illinois” not on politics.

“Any of the support for my committee is really designed as a preventative measure in the event that Republicans continue, in any more public way, to try to attack the Democratic agenda of standing up for working people or to, frankly, lie about the Democratic agenda,” Pritzker said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces the opening of a mass vaccination site in Forest Park on Monday.
Screen image
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces the opening of a mass vaccination site in Forest Park on Monday.

“We’re doing what’s right for people all across the state of Illinois, making sure that working families get what they need to stay in their homes, to get jobs and raise their wages, etc., and so, those resources will be used simply to fend off those illegitimate attacks,” Pritzker said.

The Chicago billionaire, who is an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, gave his J.B. for Governor campaign fund $35 million on March 12, state board of election records show.

Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey launches his bid for governor in Effingham last month.
BlueRoomStream
Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey launches his bid for governor in Effingham last month.

The drop into his campaign bucket came just days before Pritzker gave interviews to reporters around the state about the anniversary of Illinois’ first death due to COVID-19. In his sit-down with the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritzker said he is “focused on doing what’s right for the people of the state of Illinois and not on the politics.”

So far, three Republican candidates have lined up to take on Pritzker, assuming the first-term Democrat decides to launch a formal re-election bid as expected. Those Republican challengers include state Sen. Darren Bailey of downstate Xenia, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of downstate Waterloo and businessman Gary Rabine of northwest suburban Johnsburg.

Gary and Cheryl Rabine at the Museum of Science and Industry’s 33rd Annual Columbian Ball in 2014.
Sun-Times file
Gary and Cheryl Rabine at the Museum of Science and Industry’s 33rd Annual Columbian Ball in 2014.

None of the three had lined up financial firepower comparable to Pritzker as of Monday. Illinois Board of Elections data shows Rabine has loaned his campaign $110,000.

At the close of the last filing period, Schimpf had $62,529 and has reported raising $117,000 since then.

Bailey has nearly tripled the $179,214.29 he had at the close of 2020, reporting another $324,500 in contributions since he filed his quarterly campaign figures with the state.

In a statement, Bailey said Pritzker’s “answer to everything is raising taxes and throwing money at problems instead of solving them.

“He raised the gas tax, and that wasn’t enough for his failed agenda, so he spent $58 million to promote his progressive income tax, and voters overwhelmingly rejected it,” Bailey’s statement continued. “He’s worried, and he should be because working Illinoisans are tired of his failed leadership, high taxes, and lack of results, so he’s doing the only thing he knows how to do, spend money.

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, in early January.
From Facebook
Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, in early January.

“We are building a grassroots movement across the state because Illinoisans are hungry for change, and we are ready to stand with them and say enough is enough.”

Pritzker has sunk large sums of his personal fortune into his political bids, including the $58 million he dumped into his failed “Fair Tax” ballot initiative that would’ve changed the state’s flat income tax into a graduated one.

Before that Pritzker pumped $171 million into his 2018 bid to oust then Gov. Bruce Rauner, making that election a battle of the checkbook between the two investment titans that went down as one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in American history.

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March 22, 2021 at 06:50PM

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