CHICAGO — The 2018 Illinois governor's race is on pace to be the most expensive in U.S. history, propelled by a wealthy Republican incumbent and a billionaire Democrat who are airing TV ads and hopping private planes to campaign events more than a year before Election Day.
J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune and one of the world's richest people, is among several Democrats trying to defeat multimillionaire businessman-turned-governor Bruce Rauner. Also running is Democrat Chris Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, who in a typical race might easily be the candidate with the biggest bank account.
But this is not a typical race. All of the candidates combined have raised more than $100 million in the past year. Most of that comes from Pritzker and Rauner's own money. That's almost as much as was spent in the entire 2014 governor's race, which set an Illinois record at $112 million.
The candidates spent nearly $30 million in the first nine months of this year — more than seven times the amount spent in the same period four years ago, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
If the trend continues the contest "absolutely" could surpass the most expensive governor's race to date, a record set in California in 2010, said Colin Williams, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's political data director. He said candidates spent about $280 million in that race, in which former Gov. Jerry Brown defeated ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman.
The eye-popping cost of the Illinois contest has some people sounding an alarm about politics being a playground only for the rich.
Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, who started the governor's race with just $50,000, dropped out this month because he couldn't raise enough money to compete. He said he wasn't willing to strap his young family with huge personal debt.
"For democracy's sake, I hope we see this as a troubling trend," he said.
There's no limit to how much one person could donate to the candidates; under Illinois law, contribution caps are removed if a candidate gives his or her own campaign $250,000 or more in an election cycle.
Kennedy triggered that provision — intended to level the playing field in races with wealthy contenders — when he deposited $250,100 in his campaign fund in March. Since then, Kennedy has added $250,000 more, while Pritzker has deposited about $28 million into his fund.
Pritzker, a venture capitalist who Forbes says is worth $3.4 billion, is completely self-funding his campaign. That will allow labor unions and Democratic county organizations — many of which have endorsed him — to focus their money and energies on down-ballot races such as the Legislature.
Pritzker says self-funding will make him independent of special interests. He also says deep pockets are necessary to compete with Rauner, who spent more than $60 million of his own money to rebuild a Republican Party operation across the state and win the 2014 election.
That same operation helped the GOP pick up seats in the Illinois House in 2016, ending Democrats' supermajority. Late last year, Rauner made a $50 million contribution to his own campaign fund, money that will also help fund the state party.
"Unfortunately he set us on a course that I think is going to mean that we Democrats have got to build the infrastructure that we've lost. It's important that we knock on doors, that we're phone banking," said Pritzker, who has opened field offices across Illinois. "That is the campaign that I'm trying to put together."
Kennedy said he believes "all of us are outraged" by the money in the race but also said Democrats "need to respond" to Rauner and the GOP.
State Sen. Daniel Biss argues the best way for Democrats to do that isn't with huge personal wealth, but with a campaign like his, which has raised $2.7 million from "thousands and thousands of people" making smaller donations — including $50 from his wife.
On the campaign trail, the former math professor talks of his "middle-class life," with kids who share a bedroom. Democrats, he says, have to ask themselves: "Are we going to have an election or are we going to have an auction?"
The suspect who was wounded in an officer-involved shooting early Saturday in Carbondale has been identified, according to a news release from the Illinois State Police, which is currently investigating the incident.
According to the release, at about 2:13 a.m. Saturday, a Carbondale Police officer was approaching Curbside Grill, 227 W. Main St., on routine patrol and heard what sounded like gunshots. Upon arrival, the officer saw Jeremy Spivey, 28, of Marion, firing a gun in the direction of a large crowd of people. The Carbondale officer, in response to an active shooter, fired at Spivey, stopping the threat.
Carbondale Police officers performed life-saving medical procedures on Spivey while waiting for an ambulance, saving his life. The release states Spivey was taken to a local hospital, and subsequently flown to a regional hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.
The Illinois State Police Zone 7 Investigations is asking any witnesses to this incident to contact the Illinois State Police District 13 Headquarters at 618-542-2171.
Spivey is currently on parole through the Illinois Department of Corrections. In addition to a parole violation warrant, ISP says in the release that additional charges are anticipated in connection with this incident, pending further investigation and Jackson County State’s Attorney’s review of the case.
Because of the ongoing investigation, the Carbondale Police officer is not being identified.
MURPHYSBORO — U.S. Rep. Mike Bost said he intends to seek a third term as Illinois’ 12th congressional district representative.
The Murphysboro Republican said this past week that what he’s found most challenging about his time in Washington is the political divisiveness that has seemingly overtaken the process and the American people.
“I have been frustrated with the extremists wanting to cause trouble and scream about the issues and want to make a splash on social media, even to the point of, I believe, causing a lot of hate in this nation that I’ve never seen before,” he said.
Bost said “that weighed on me” as he decided whether to run again. As did the fact that the job takes him away from his wife, children and grandchildren more than he would like.
“But I prayed it out, weighed it out. I know what we’ve got to accomplish and that’s why I’m going back to the people to ask them to send me to continue to work for them,” Bost said.
“My hope is they’re happy with the job I’ve been doing and they’ll send me back to do that.”
Bost said he also feels called to run again to continue pushing the issues he promised voters he would in the last two election cycles, including reforming the Affordable Care Act and for measures he believes will improve the regional economy, either directly by supporting an infrastructure improvement bill or indirectly by reducing environmental regulations for energy producers.
In his current term and the next, if elected, Bost said he also intends to continue to seek accountability at the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center and better living conditions for the people affected by a housing crisis in Cairo.
As well, he said the opioid crisis sweeping Southern Illinois continues to be an issue of major concern for his office, as it will be for his candidacy.
Bost said that he likes “keeping a finger on the pulse” and listening to his district and taking the concerns of residents of the 12th District to Washington.
He said that his climb up the seniority ranks is also something he would like voters to take into consideration on the November 2018 ballot. Bost said seniority affords a lawmaker more influence with leadership, better committee assignments and more knowledge about how to navigate the process and be more effective for one’s district. “Experience and know-how in working with people there comes with time,” Bost said.
Sometimes, he said, accomplishments are measured by helping to move a measure forward. Other times, it’s about stopping something harmful to the district from making it into a bill that’s a “major accomplishment.”
Bost said he supports President Donald Trump’s tax reform effort. Further, he said passage of that could be the springboard for congressional attention on Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion into improving transportation infrastructure across the nation.
Bost said that passage of an infrastructure bill could bring needed jobs to Southern Illinois while improving regional roads, bridges, highways and airports; repairing levees and locks and dams on the rivers; investing in sewer and water upgrades for communities; and improving high-speed internet access throughout the district.
Where it concerns the Affordable Care Act, Bost said he made a promise to “repeal and replace,” but Republican efforts to do so have failed. “We sent it over and we’ve begged the Senate to send it back,” Bost said. “We have to do something.” Bost said he’s willing to compromise but believes that something has to be done — and soon.
“I voted to ‘repeal and replace’ because that’s what I promised the people I would do,” Bost said. “Now, if they send us another bill from the Senate and it doesn’t go to that level, but it really does some cures, I’m all for working in a bipartisan manner because the system is collapsing and it is collapsing quickly.” Bost said he supports the executive action Trump has taken to dismantle key parts of the act. “We’ve got to make enough members aware that we’ve got to fix the problem,” Bost said.
Bost also addressed the criticism he’s received by some for declining to hold in-person town hall style meetings. Bost said his primary concern was and continues to be that there are a number of people who would show up with the primary purpose of disrupting the forum.
Bost said he also has concerns about safety at this time, citing the June shooting incident in Alexandria, Virginia, as Republican members of Congress practiced for a charity baseball game. House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise was injured in the incident, during which police fatally shot James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville after he opened fire. Bost was not present at the practice, though Belleville is part of the 12th congressional district.
Bost said he continues to hold tele-town halls and offers to meet with smaller groups in his office. Bost said he also regularly hosts forums organized around a specific topic such as agriculture or the opioid crisis during which people can express their opinions and ask questions.
“I have no problem with people disagreeing with me,” he said. “Quite often, when they disagree, I take that back and weigh it out and use it. I will do the best I can. But to have someone just automatically disagree because I’m a Republican or they think someone else should be in this seat — that would not be productive,” he said. Asked who he thinks is responsible for driving the political divide of today, Bost said it is extremists on the left and right.
As for Trump, Bost said he supports most though not all of the policy positions of the president. But he also questioned his Twitter habits and the ensuing reaction to his comments. “Sometimes, I think the controversy with him comes from the fact that people are so easy to react to him,” Bost said. “That doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything, but sometimes their reaction is greater than the comment is worth. But it’s because of who he is. He’s like a lightning rod.”
The 12th Congressional District includes the counties of Alexander, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union and Williamson counties and part of Madison County.
MURPHYSBORO — Over the past few days, workers appear to have been clearing away soil at the site of the new commercial development planned for the Illinois 13 and Illinois 127 intersection in east Murphysboro.
The city's mayor said the work was soil remediation work, but he was not clear what impact the work was going to have on future development. The project's developer, Columbia businessman Joe Koppeis, was unavailable for comment, a staffer in his office said.
It was two summers ago that Koppeis purchased the property, intending to convert it into a commercial retail space.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said Koppeis plans to hang a sign from a semitrailer bed at the site, this one announcing the future development of a Holiday Inn Express hotel. A sign hanging off the semitrailer bed now reads "Lots Available For Sale or Lease."
In addition to constructing a Holiday Inn Express on site, Koppeis has said he plans to develop a convenience store, a gas station and at least two fast-food restaurants on the 30-acre site.
The city has also created a Tax Increment Financing district that will also allow certain tax incentives for businesses established there.
Stephens said Koppeis has said he plans to build up part of the low-lying land in that area.
He has also commissioned a local artisan to create a statue of a Big Muddy Monster for the area.