By Lauren Grimaldi
After a contentious primary battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, billionaire JB Pritzker won the nomination with over 40 percent of the vote. His top two challengers in state senator Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy came in second and third with 26 and 24 percent of the vote respectively.
Incumbent governor Bruce Rauner narrowly defeated his Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives by a margin of just under three percent. According to the New York Times, turnout among the Republican party was decidedly low with just over 700,000 people casting a ballot.
Contrastly, over 1.2 million votes were cast in the Democratic race overall. In comparison to the 2014 primary election, Republicans saw a decline in participation whereas Democrats saw an increase.
Associate political science professor David Faris said that these numbers could bode well for voters that hope to see Governor Rauner and the Republican party lose in the general election.
“This suggests that the national mobilization on the Democratic side is very much in process here in Illinois as well,” Faris said.
Faris additionally explained that Rauner’s close call with Ives proved that the governor is vulnerable come November.
“Governor Rauner barely avoided the embarrassment of losing his primary as a sitting governor. But the support for Jeanne Ives suggests that the takeover of the state Republican Party by allies of President Trump is very much underway,” Faris said. “Together with renewed enthusiasm from the progressive left, it looks very much like Democrats and Republicans in Illinois will continue drifting apart.”
The battle between Rauner and Pritzker will likely shape up to be one of the most expensive political races in Illinois history. Both candidates have already spent millions of their own fortunes on their primary elections.
As of March 14, Pritzker had donated over $69 million dollars to his own campaign. Similarly, the incumbent governor has used much of his own money to fund his candidacy as well.
Senior political science major Adam Gunther believed the general election between Rauner and Pritzker will be interesting to watch.
“With Rauner and Pritzker both being unfathomably wealthy, the entire state is going to be saturated with campaign dollars,” Gunther said. “It’ll probably provide some wacky results, and I’m hoping that JB’s big bucks mean that the Democrats can put together an awesome voter turnout program downstate.”
Gunther said he was pleased with the way many of the down ballot races played out as a progressive.
“I think a lot of the media is cherry-picking a few results where the more progressive candidate lost, but in reality the down ballot races produced a lot of fresh, new voices and I think that’s exactly what Springfield needs,” Gunther said.
Professor Faris said that state senator Ira Silverstein’s loss to Ram Villivalam was a good sign for progressives moving forward. Silverstein had been accused of sexual misconduct in late 2017 and refused to resign from his position. Faris also cited the victory of Fritz Kaegi in the race for Cook County Assessor over embattled incumbent Joseph Berrios.
“I’m pleased that Democrats are fired up and ready to roll for November. I think they’re going to have a great cycle,” Faris said. “In the long run, the progressive left is clearly on the march in Illinois, and you can squint and see, finally, an end to the dominance of the corrupt Democratic machine without turning over power to an increasingly radicalized GOP.”