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Bailey vs. Pritzker: What to expect on the path to November

Election Graphic
Laura Vergara

WBEZ Political Reporter Dave McKinney breaks down the race for Illinois Governor

The Illinois governor’s race is now set after last night’s primary elections. It’s going to be a downstate farmer in Republican Darren Bailey.

And on the Democratic side, it’s billionaire Governor JB Pritzker seeking a second term.

WBEZ politics reporter Dave McKinney is here to break down last night’s results and give us a preview for the general election.

Good morning, Dave. So, the governor fended off a little-known primary challenger. What kind of campaign do you see him running against Bailey?

  • The governor had a packed room last night when he delivered his victory speech and, while he talked some about his accomplishments, he really took the gloves off against Bailey, who’s a hard-right, Trump-loving Republican.
  • PRITZKER: “Let me be clear. Someone who seeks out and accepts the endorsement of a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, twice-impeached former president doesn’t deserve to come anywhere near this state’s highest office.”
  • The governor also accused Bailey of siding with the January 6th insurrectionists, being an election denier and wanting to severely tighten abortion restrictions in Illinois.

Darren Bailey isn’t a household name in Illinois but he still won the Republican primary. Tell us how that happened.

  • Bailey went into the primary as the underdog against Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. But Bailey really ran up the score last night, losing only one county and getting about 60% of the vote statewide in a six-way race.
  • Part of that success, undoubtedly, is due to Pritzker and the Democratic Governors’ Association pouring millions of dollars into the GOP primary to help boost Bailey’s chances because they viewed him as the easiest to defeat this fall.
  • Irvin had gotten $50 million in backing from hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, but he appeared to be headed for a third-place finish.
  • Griffin reacted to the defeat with a bitter statement that didn’t mention Bailey, hit the Democrats for spending big money in the GOP primary and still vouched for Irvin as the Republicans’ best hope this fall against Pritzker.

Now that Bailey has won, who is he and what kind of campaign is he going to run against Pritzker?

  • Bailey is a Bible-quoting Springfield novice who hit Pritzker on the economy and crime and believes his big primary showing amounts to serious momentum that Pritzker ought to fear. Here he is last night, giving his own victory speech to a roomful of supporter at a downstate Effingham convention hall.
  • BAILEY: “Now the elites and the press say Pritzker’s a shoo-in. You get it. They say our fate’s set. (Nooooo!), that a farmer can’t beat a billionaire. Friends, the funny thing is, the same people said we couldn’t win the primary.”
  • Bailey has a right to feel good about his primary win. He was outspent, but he wasn’t outhustled. In the closing weeks, he hit all 102 of Illinois’ counties, even spending time in Chicago, which he called a “hellhole” because of its crime and history of corruption. Expect Bailey to keep up that intensity through the fall.

But as that clip of Bailey showed, he understands how he’s viewed as an underdog against Pritzker. Does he have a chance of winning against the governor?

  • There’s a lot of talk about even in a blue state like Illinois that Republicans could have a strong year because of Joe Biden’s unpopularity and the bad economy.
  • But here’s the reality: Pritzker spent $170 million to get elected in 2018, and right now, Bailey doesn’t have any hope, short of winning the lottery, of being able to invest that kind of money into his campaign.
  • Bailey also has aligned himself closely with Trump. But remember that Trump lost Illinois by 17 percentage points in 2020 – and the January 6th hearings aren’t increasing Trump’s popularity anywhere.

There were other races last night. Tell us about what the fall campaign looks like for the Illinois secretary of state.

  • Mary, these were much lower-profile races that are still important spots.
  • This is the first election in 24 years that Jesse White’s name isn’t on the ballot for secretary of state. Republicans picked state Rep. Dan Brady, from Bloomington, and Democrats chose former state Treasurer and failed U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Brady isn’t well known, but he’s in House Republican leadership in Springfield. And Giannoulias has wealth to finance a TV ad campaign but baggage in his family’s failed bank.

And how about attorney general?

  • Downstate lawyer Tom Devore held a lead last night in a three-way primary. His main opponent was attorney Steve Kim, whom Griffin also backed. But Kim has conceded. DeVore is an ally of Bailey and made a name for himself challenging Gov. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mandates.
  • Assuming Devore is declared the winner of this race, he’ll be up against first-term Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul. And it’s a bit of an irony because Raoul was on the other side of DeVore’s COVID-19 litigation, representing the Pritzker administration.

And we also now know who Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth will be facing in the fall. Tell us about who Kathy Salvi is.

  • Salvi is a long-time conservative activist and attorney from Mundelein. She’s married to former state Representative Al Salvi, who was the GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate way back in 1996, when Dick Durbin had his first successful Senate run.
  • Salvi ran a campaign where she wasn’t out much nor very accessible. But she fended off Belleville cop Peggy Hubbard in a six-way GOP Senate primary. Hubbard was present during the January 6th insurrection but was never charged.
  • Duckworth looks like a heavy favorite and last night hit Salvi as an “ultraconservative” who wants to enact a national abortion ban.