Democrats for secretary of state, other statewide offices hold big financial advantage over GOP contenders

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Statewide candidates on the Democratic ticket led by Gov. J.B. Pritzker hold commanding cash advantages over Republicans ahead of next month’s general election, state records for the year’s third quarter show.

Democrats continued to benefit from the largesse of Pritzker, a billionaire entrepreneur and Hyatt Hotels heir who gave $1 million each to his party’s candidates for secretary of state, Alexi Giannoulias, and attorney general, Kwame Raoul, in September.

But Democrats also showed a broader base of financial support than Republicans. That hits the GOP particularly hard following the departure of billionaire benefactor Ken Griffin, who moved to Florida ahead of a disastrous primary for the slate of candidates he was backing.

Fundraising totals for the key election-cycle period from July 1 to Sept. 30 also indicate that business interests are not supporting Republicans as robustly as in past elections, while Democrats have continued to get healthy donations from unions, the legal community and other key constituencies, campaign finance expert Kent Redfield said.

“People with the most money do not always win, but people without money almost always lose to people with money,” said Redfield, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Dan Brady, left, a former state representative and a candidate for secretary of state and challenger former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias speak with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on Oct. 5, 2022.

Dan Brady, left, a former state representative and a candidate for secretary of state and challenger former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias speak with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on Oct. 5, 2022. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Giannoulias, looking to succeed retiring Democratic Secretary of State Jesse White, had more than $4 million in his account at the time of the June 28 primary, more than his three opponents combined. The latest report shows that at the end of September, Giannoulias still had nearly $2.6 million in his bankroll, boosted by Pritzker’s $1 million contribution.

Giannoulias, who’s from Chicago and was Illinois’ treasurer from 2007 to 2011, raised over $3.1 million from July through September while spending more than $1.35 million during that period, most of it on advertising, the reports show.

Several auto dealerships were among Giannoulias’ most generous donors, together contributing more than $100,000 to his campaign during the most recent quarter. Other notable contributions included $59,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and $20,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Giannoulias’ Republican opponent, state Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington, had less than $249,000 in his campaign account at the end of September.

Brady’s campaign took in more than $318,000 from July 1 to the end of September, while spending close to $75,200, records show. Contributions included $100,000 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education and $25,000 from the campaign fund of GOP state Rep. Bradley Stephens, who is also the mayor of Rosemont

Since Oct. 1, Brady has reported another $71,200 in donations of $1,000 or more, while Giannoulias has yet to report any large-dollar contributions

Brady also went into the primary at a financial disadvantage to his opponent, Griffin-backed former U.S. Attorney John Milhiser, but came out on top, and has used that win to downplay his situation heading into November.

“What the voters are looking for is not who has the most money in the bank but who has the best ability and who has the best ideas to streamline an office that needs to be brought into the 21st century,” Brady said last month during a Zoom-based forum sponsored by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors.

In the state treasurer’s race, two-term incumbent Democrat Michael Frerichs of Champaign began October with $2.3 million in his campaign account. Frerichs spent about $328,500 during the quarter, including over $100,000 apiece for advertising and consulting, records show.

Republican state Rep. Tom Demmer, left, is challenging incumbent Democratic Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs.

Republican state Rep. Tom Demmer, left, is challenging incumbent Democratic Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs. (Brian Cassella and Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

His GOP challenger, state Rep. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, ended the period with just under $461,000 on hand after spending more than $95,000 during the quarter. Like Milhiser, Demmer was part of the Griffin slate, though he had no opponent in the primary and received just $6,000 from the hedge fund billionaire.

Stephens’ campaign fund also gave $25,000 to Demmer, and billionaire packaging company owner Richard Uihlein donated $6,000, according to records. Demmer spent nearly $48,000 on digital advertising from July through September, and $7,700 on consulting during that period, records show.

Since Oct. 1, Frerichs has reported receiving another $99,500 in large dollar contributions, compared with a little more than $11,100 for Demmer.

Raoul, of Chicago, who’s vying for his second term as attorney general, ended September with nearly $1.9 million in his campaign fund, boosted near the end of last month with Pritzker’s $1 million check.

From July through September, Raoul received more than $2.7 million in contributions, largely from labor unions and other core Democratic supporters. He spent nearly $802,000, which included a $658,000 ad buy. Raoul’s campaign has said it plans to spend a total of $2.8 million on advertising online and on broadcast and cable television.

Republican Thomas DeVore, left, is challenging Illinois Attorney General Democrat Kwame Raoul.

Republican Thomas DeVore, left, is challenging Illinois Attorney General Democrat Kwame Raoul. (Brian Cassella and Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)

Raoul’s Republican challenger, attorney Thomas DeVore of downstate Sorento, began October with nearly $296,000 in his campaign fund after raising nearly $468,000 over the previous three months. That total includes a $250,001 loan he made to himself that lifted contribution limits in the race and opened the door for Pritzker’s donation to Raoul.

Aside from himself, DeVore’s biggest contributor was Anthony Marano Co., a Chicago-based produce company whose donations totaled $62,000. Devore also received $6,000 from Uihlein, $5,000 from Republican National Committee member Richard Porter, and $2,500 from Shannon Adcock, founder of far-right group Awake Illinois.

DeVore spent nearly $188,000 during the quarter. His two largest expenses were $45,500 for consulting and $25,000 in principal payments to himself for the self-loan.

DeVore has raised another $10,500 in large contributions this month, compared with more than $309,000 for Raoul.

In no race is the money gap wider than in the contest for comptroller, the office that oversees the state’s checkbook.

Incumbent Susana Mendoza of Chicago is vying for a second full term against GOP nominee and McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi. Mendoza had more than $1.4 million in her campaign account at the end of September compared with Teresi’s total of a little more than $26,000.

Teresi has reported raising just $4,500 in October, compared with nearly $178,000 raised by Mendoza.

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

dpetrella@chicagotribune.com

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October 18, 2022 at 04:48PM

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