Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave Democratic governors’ group $24 million to fund ads that helped nominate his GOP opponent

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In addition to spending more than $62 million en route to an easy win in the June primary, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also gave $24 million to the Democratic Governors Association, which then spent millions on TV ads encouraging Republicans to vote for his favored GOP challenger, state Sen. Darren Bailey, financial reports showed.

The reports, filed with the Internal Revenue Service as part of the DGA’s tax-exempt status and covering April through June, show Pritzker’s contribution represented almost half of the roughly $52 million the DGA raised in the quarter.

Pritzker’s intent to enlist the DGA to influence the Republican primary was evident in early April when he gave the group $16 million. He followed up with another $8 million in mid-May, the IRS filing showed.

Pritzker has spent about $30 million on TV ads since announcing his reelection bid last July. Pritzker’s most recent pre-primaryad vilified well-financed Republican contender Richard Irvin and labeled Bailey’s conservatism as “too extreme” for Illinois, themes the DGA mirrored in TV ads the group spent at least $19 million to air, industry estimates showed.

In labeling Bailey, a wealthy farmer from Xenia, as an extreme conservative, the Democratic ads served as a backhanded way to generate support for Bailey among Republican primary voters and weaken Irvin, the Aurora mayor who received $50 million from Pritzker foe Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm.

Pritzker and his party believed Bailey’s rural, Christian evangelical-based candidacy, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, would make him the easier candidate to defeat in the Nov. 8 general election.

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Ballot totals are set to be certified by the State Board of Elections on July 29. Unofficial totals representing 97% of the expected final vote showed Bailey winning his party’s nomination with 57.7% of the GOP primary vote, with Petersburg investor Jesse Sullivan getting 15.6% of the vote and Irvin about 15% in the six-way contest.

Pritzker faced only nominal primary opposition in seeking a second term, allowing the billionaire governor to devote resources to the Republican primary. The Pritzker and DGA ads joined with nearly $19 million spent by Bailey and a Bailey-backed political action committee that also criticized Irvin’s Republican credentials.

Bailey and the allied PAC got a total of $17 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, the head of the Uline office packaging and supply company.

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July 22, 2022 at 04:18PM

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