CHICAGO (CBS) — The race for the highest office in Illinois is set, after billionaire J.B. Pritzker easily defeated five other candidates in the bid for the Democratic nomination, and Gov. Bruce Rauner squeaked out a win on the Republican side.
The race between the two billionaires likely will be the most expensive gubernatorial race of all time. Experts have said it could end up costing a mind-boggling $300 million.
After a bruising primary battle, Rauner made his first campaign stop of the general election Wednesday morning in the far western suburbs, visiting manufacturer Carton Craft in Saint Charles.
Rauner narrowly escaped the GOP primary, defeating conservative Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives by less than four percentage points, despite pumping $50 million of his own money into the campaign.
During the race, Ives called Rauner the worst governor in the nation. Although she conceded Tuesday night, the two haven’t spoken since Rauner’s win, and in a Tuesday morning radio interview on AM 560, Ives called Rauner “unelectable,” accused him of destroying the Republican Party brand, and said he “cannot be elected” in November.
However, the governor said he’ll do what he can to bring Ives and her supporters into his camp.
“Emotions run high in campaigns. For me, none of it’s personal. I don’t pay any attention to anything other than getting a good result for the people of Illinois. None of this is personal for me,” he said.
Rauner was asked if he could match his Democratic challenger dollar for dollar in the general election, but he didn’t really say. The governor also was asked flat-out if he’s a billionaire, but he declined to answer that question twice.
Rauner now faces the difficult task of winning a second term in a Democratic-leaning Illinois, where his approval numbers are even lower than President Donald Trump, and Republican voters showed much less enthusiasm than Democrats in the primary.
Less than 700,000 Republicans cast ballots in the race for governor, according to unofficial results, while more than 1.24 million Democrats voted for governor.
Meantime, Pritzker greeted voters Tuesday morning at the 95th Street station on the CTA Red Line.
“I feel great this morning. We really did well all across the state. As you know, we won 98 out of 102 counties,” he said.
Pritzker cruised to victory over five other Democrats on the back of $70 million of his own cash he infused into his campaign.
“Illinois is worth it. We need to rescue the state from this governor, who is such a complete failure. He’s done nothing for working families for three years,” Pritzker said.
The former hotel magnate defeated his closest rivals, Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy, by about 20 points each.
Pritzker wouldn’t say if he’d pump another $70 million into the general election fight against Rauner.
“We’re going to work hard in the general election. As you know, we invested in infrastructure to make sure that we’ve got the kind of campaign that will be able to win in a general election, not just in a primary,” he said.
With eight months left to go, Pritzker and Rauner can focus their campaigns, and their considerable war chests solely on each other in an effort to in in November.