How the top Illinois governor candidates are outpacing others on fundraising and ad spending – The State Journal-Register

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Campaign finance disclosures filed by candidates in the Republican and Democrat primaries for Illinois governor gave a look inside at where funds are being spent and the sources of those donations. 

Since the start of the year, candidates have spent $33 million on ads, campaign staff, outreach to voters and more, according to first-quarter reports released this week by the state board of elections.  

Incumbent Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, spent $17.1 million, outpacing Republican candidate Richard Irvin’s $11.9 million in spending so far. 

The four candidates with the next largest campaign war chests spent an average of $979,000 in the first three months of 2022. 

Results of the spending can be seen on social media, in television ads, emails, and text messages. 

“If you’re on the team, we’d love to send you a free sticker,” reads an April 18 email sent to supporters of Pritzker’s campaign. ”Hundreds have already been claimed, so make sure you get yours by tonight!”

More:Illinois primary elections are on June 28. Here’s what you need to know about the races

But while filings with the state indicate the Pritzker campaign spent about $4,200 on merchandise for the quarter, the campaign paid out $10.6 million to produce and buy advertisements. 

Those ads have mostly focused on Pritzker’s time in office, such as one touting his push to increase the minimum wage in 2019 or one that begins with the buzzes and beeps of a dial-up modem. 

“Remember that sound? That’s how we were all using the internet the last time Illinois got a credit rating upgrade,” Pritzker says to the camera in the ad. 

As with his first run for governor, Pritzker has used his own money to pay campaign bills donating $90 million in January.  And unlike his rivals, his website does not list a way to donate.

Irvin, the Republican mayor of Aurora seeking his party’s nomination for governor, also has spent millions to reach potential voters. 

“Oh no! Richard missed his deadline. We’re offering you 2X-match to comeback before Democrats have time to notice,” reads an April 19 mass text from Irvin’s campaign. 

Irvin has spent over $785,000 on “voter contact” efforts. Like Pritzker, the amount is relatively small compared to Irvin’s largest expense: advertisements. Irvin’s campaign spent $10.1 million on “media placements,” according to the campaign finance records.

The campaign didn’t reach its fundraising goal, according to that April text. But in the first quarter, Irvin raised $22.8 million, over 17 times more than any other Republican candidate reported in the campaign finance filings. 

Of that money, $20 million came from Republican megadonor Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder and CEO of Citadel, a hedge fund headquartered in Chicago. He has been a major funder of Illinois politics for two decades, making donations to candidates of both parties. 

“Richard knows the importance of ending wasteful spending and reducing oppressively high taxes,” said Griffin in a February statement shortly after making the multi-million dollar donation to Irvin’s campaign. 

Over the years, Griffin donated $162,000 to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and $60,000 to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, both Democrats.  But Griffin has become known in recent years for supporting conservative candidates and causes. Griffin was a major funder of former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaigns and donated $36 million to Rauner’s bids for governor.

More:Why one in five Illinois voters may not have a say in legislative primary elections

Other Republican primary gubernatorial competitors have employed a strategy similar to Irvin’s relying on single sources for the majority of their funding.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, raised $1.3 million since Jan. 1, with $1 million coming from billionaire Richard Uihlein, the founder of Uline, a shipping and business supplies company. 

On Wednesday, Uihlein gave Bailey’s campaign an additional $2.5 million, according to records from the state board of elections. 

Uihlein is another significant donor in Illinois politics. Between 2014 and 2018, he was the largest donor to Liberty Principles PAC, a conservative political group run by conservative radio host Dan Proft. Uihlein gave the group $17.58 million, according to state campaign finance records. 

Jesse Sullivan raised $1.3 million since Jan. 1, with $1 million coming from Asurion CEO Kevin Taweel. 

Taweel was one of the initial funders of Sullivan’s campaign. On Sep. 3, 2021, shortly before Sullivan launched his campaign, Taweel gave $4 million to the effort. The same day, billionaire businessman Chris Larsen gave Sullivan $5 million. 

The donations account for 80% of all of the funds Sullivan has raised since starting his campaign. 

Schaumburg businessman Gary Rabine raised $1.1 million since Jan. 1, though $1 million Rabine loaned to his campaign. 

Republican candidate, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, has fallen significantly behind his GOP rivals. He’s raised about $79,000 in 2022 and spent $131,000. 

Beyond the candidates raising the largest amount of campaign cash, several others may appear on primary ballots. Beverly Miles, on the Democratic primary ballot,  raised $5,200 in the first quarter. 

On the Republican side, Cheryl Erickson, Emily Johnson and Keisha Smith are on the ballot, though none have reported any donations to the state board of elections in 2022. 

Max Solomon also is running as a Republican. He raised $8,500 and spent just under $7,177. He previously made unsuccessfully runs for state representative and state senator as a Democrat. 

Contact Andrew Adams: aadams1@gannett.com; (312)-291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.

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April 21, 2022 at 11:54AM

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