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Pritzker’s GOP challengers face financial disadvantage, campaign records show

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CHICAGO — Four contenders in the Republican race for governor largely spent as much or more than they raised during the final quarter of 2021 as they competed for the right to take on billionaire Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

A fifth contender, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, joined the Republican race on Monday at the top of a slate looking to gain the financial backing of Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder and CEO of investment firm Citadel. Irvin’s fundraising for the campaign is just underway, but he can shift the $164,888 that was in his mayoral campaign fund at the end of the year to his newly launched bid for governor.

Pritzker GOP challengers

Republican candidates for Illinois governor include, from left, Gary Rabine, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, state Rep. Darren Bailey and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf.

Absent Griffin’s financial intervention, the diminutive fundraising totals of the Republican contenders make clear the financial disparity they face in competing against Pritzker. The first-term governor, whose campaign has been repeatedly airing reelection commercials, spent more in the last three months — more than $9.9 million — than the GOP candidate with the most cash had on hand, and ended 2021 with $14.7 million in his campaign fund.

But just days before Irvin jumped into the contest, Pritzker added $90 million to his campaign. Including his first run for office, Pritzker now has put a total of $303 million into his campaign fund, records show.

Among the Republican hopefuls, businessman Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg held the most available cash on hand to start the year with $9.1 million.

Sullivan, who heads a venture capital firm, raised nearly $294,000 in the September to December reporting period, including $100,000 from cybercurrency CEO Bradley Garlinghouse of Ripple Labs. But he spent more than $1.2 million in the three-month reporting period.

His campaign filing also appeared to incorrectly list that he had another $10 million in an investment account for his campaign, but that figure was not backed by reports of the funds that he raised since launching his campaign last September.

State Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia reported having more than $707,000 in cash available at the start of the year, and has taken in $1,000 since. During the September to December reporting period, Bailey raised nearly $500,000 but reported spending nearly $800,000.

Bailey reported giving $200,000 to the Restore Illinois political action committee, a PAC formed in 2018 to back conservative Republican state legislators in east central Illinois whose purpose was expanded last year to support statewide candidates like Bailey.

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A week after giving the PAC money, Restore Illinois returned $150,100 to Bailey as a refund for exceeding campaign donation limits. Bailey also reported giving nearly $60,000 each to three of his “Eastern Bloc” conservative colleagues in the General Assembly.

Gary Rabine, a businessman from Bull Valley, reported $525,752 in cash on hand to start the year and has raised $22,500 in large-dollar contributions since then. In the three-month reporting period, Rabine raised $580,626, including a $180,000 loan he gave to his campaign in December. But Rabine spent nearly $471,000 during the time period. Since announcing his candidacy last year, Rabine has put more than $450,000 of his money into his campaign.

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo reported nearly $81,000 in cash on hand after raising nearly $62,000 and spending almost $55,000, the campaign finance reports showed.

The reporting period also marked the end of the campaign fund for one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the wealthy businessman Pritzker defeated in 2018. Rauner, who is spending much of his time in Florida, closed out his fund with $995 in unreconciled expenditures and nearly $40,000 in unpaid debts to a campaign vendor.

In the race for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state to replace retiring incumbent Jesse White, former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias had more than $4 million in cash available to start the year.

Campaign reports show Giannoulias raised more than $658,000 while spending only $82,244 during the last quarter. Giannoulias, attempting a political comeback after losing a 2010 bid for U.S. Senate, has seen his campaign fund boosted by nearly $2.3 million in family loans.

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, also seeking the Democratic secretary of state nomination, reported nearly $900,000 in cash available for her campaign on Jan. 1, raising more than $331,000 while spending more than $156,000.

A third announced candidate in the race, Chicago Ald. David Moore, 17th, listed $81,539 in cash on hand after raising more than $44,500 and spending more than $61,400, reports showed.

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