The field for Illinois Republicans seeking their party’s gubernatorial nomination just grew. The amount of money in this election cycle is also expected to grow.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday gave his reelection campaign $90 million. IllinoisSunshine.org compiles campaign finance reports and shows the billionaire Democratic incumbent has more than $114 million on hand. That far exceeds any of the Republican candidates.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin announced his bid Monday. He picked state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, as his running mate.
The team launched a website, IrvinBourne.com, Monday. In a campaign video, Irvin talks about his great grandfather being a slave who sought freedom in Illinois. He said after growing up in subsidized housing with a single mother, he joined the military, then got involved in politics. He’s been mayor of Aurora since 2017.
“I’ve seen it up close, ‘defund the police’ is dumb, dangerous and costs lives and I believe that all lives matter,” Irvin said. “Every family should be safe.”
Other Republicans in the race provided swift criticism, highlighting Irvin’s support for Democrats in the past.
“After years of pulling Democratic primary ballots in years when Pat Quinn, Hillary [Clinton] and Joe Biden were top of the ticket, I am interested to hear what changed your mind on party affiliation,” businessman Gary Rabine said.
Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who’s also seeking the GOP nomination, reacted to Irvin’s announcement.
“As a capitalist and a former athlete, I love competition, even for elected office,” Sullivan said. “But the people of Illinois are sick of career politicians who’ve been given ample opportunities to fix our state. They deserve a true conservative political outsider who can lead and make Illinois strong. I am the candidate who can save Illinois.”
Even Democratic groups put out statements questioning Irvin’s Republican credentials.
“Before he announced his entrance into the Illinois GOP gubernatorial primary, Richard Irvin spent years praising Gov. JB Pritzker’s leadership,” the Democratic Governors Association said on Twitter. “Now, with a new billionaire backer, he’s changed his tune.”
Details about the political committee Irvin For Illinois were not immediately available through the Illinois State Board of Education’s campaign finance disclosure portal. It’s reported Irvin has the backing of billionaire hedge fund owner Ken Griffin, with some reports saying Griffin could infuse $300 million into Illinois politics to oppose Pritzker.
Reform For Illinois Executive Director Alisa Kaplan said it’s going to be a big money campaign the state hasn’t seen before.
“This is an insane amount of money by any standard,” Kaplan told The Center Square Monday. “By national standards, by local standards, by global standards.”
Pritzker spent more than $170 million to get the job in 2018.
“Look at the vicious cycle that Illinois has gotten into with two billionaires,” Kaplan said. “It’s very distressing that Pritzker put $90 million into his campaign account. But when you look at Ken Griffin saying he’s going to put $300 million, how is someone going to fight except with a lot of money.”
Kaplan said voters must beware the influence big money has.
“I think people should be very concerned about what this means for their democracy and do whatever they can to get involved and see how we can empower everyday voters instead of just sitting back and accepting this situation,” Kaplan said.