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Illinois Governor Primaries
Rauner, Pritzker win primaries in Illinois governor's race

CHICAGO — The race for Illinois governor will be a battle between two deep-pocketed candidates who've already sunk more than $120 million combined into the contest, putting it on pace to become the costliest such campaign in U.S. history.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy former private equity investor, defeated conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives on Tuesday for the GOP nomination.

"We are in a critical time, a critical turning point in Illinois," Rauner told supporters. "I am humbled by this victory. You have given me a chance to win the battle against corruption that plagues Illinois."

He will face Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker, an investor and heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, who easily won the primary over Chris Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; and Daniel Biss, 40, a state senator who campaigned as the "middle-class candidate."

Pritzker, 53, already has spent more than $70 million to bankroll his campaign, while Rauner has put in about $50 million and has received millions more from his wealthy friends in the business community. Combined, they're expected to top California in 2010 as the nation's most expensive governor's race.

In an interview with The Associated Press after the race was called, Pritzker called the victory "amazing" and said he's "really excited."

"We've got some work to do for the next eight months because we're going to go out and beat Bruce Rauner," he said.

Rauner, 61, took advantage of a national GOP wave four years ago to pull off a surprising victory — in a state otherwise dominated by Democrats —to win his first political office. Rauner's personal wealth is just shy of $1 billion, but Pritzker — an investor and one of the heirs to the Hyatt hotel chain — is worth several times more.

Ives raised just $4 million — less than any of the other prominent candidates, but attacked the governor's conservative credentials in edgy TV ads. One of them, which the chairman of the state GOP blasted as a "cowardly attempt to stoke political division," portrays actors mockingly thanking Rauner for not doing enough to restrict illegal immigration, abortion and transgender bathroom rights.

In other races on the Illinois primary ballot, former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn — whom Rauner ousted in 2014 — was locked in a tough competition with state Sen. Kwame Raoul for state attorney general. There also are numerous contested congressional primary races, including progressive candidate Marie Newman's challenge to seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski.

But none involved the kind of spending as seen in the governor's race. Personal wealth solidified Rauner and Pritzker's front-runner status but also made them frequent targets for opponent attacks. Even Kennedy spent $2 million of his own money on the race.

Biss, a Harvard-educated mathematician who gave up teaching to enter politics, set up a website to track what he says is a $171,000-a-day campaign by Pritzker. The Democratic front-runner has been advertising on television from nearly the moment he announced his candidacy 11 months ago.

Pritzker's opponents also have attacked his connections with overseas trusts in low-tax countries, though he maintains they're focused on charitable giving and that he has no control over them. In response, Biss has called him a "fraud" while Kennedy labeled him a "liar."

But far more damaging were ads that Rauner ran against Pritzker after wiretap audio surfaced of him talking with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The ads included a 30-minute infomercial-style ad with the full FBI recordings.

Rauner took on Pritzker again when more tapes surfaced from the Chicago Tribune. They revealed Pritzker describing Secretary of State Jesse White — a Pritzker backer — as the "least offensive" black officeholder to be considered for the Senate seat vacated by then-President-elect Barack Obama. Pritzker has apologized, and White continues to back him.

Although Biss has built his campaign around claiming to be the "middle-class candidate," he has faced criticism as the architect of a plan to cut the roughly $100 billion gap in pension funding for the cash-strapped state by reducing some of the promised retirement benefits. Although he says he has learned his lesson and won't support it again, Pritzker has repeatedly criticized his change of heart.

Biss and Kennedy have teamed up against Pritzker for his silence on whether Michael Madigan, the longest-serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history, should step aside because of criticism about how he handled sexual harassment complaints by campaign workers against two of his political aides.

Rauner also has invoked Madigan in his ads against Ives, calling her "Mike Madigan's favorite Republican and Illinois' worst nightmare."

Rauner rolled to victory in 2014 with a promise to "shake up" Springfield with a pro-business, anti-union agenda including lower property taxes and term limits on officeholders. But his ongoing spat with Madigan and other legislative Democrats left the state without a budget for two years while billions of dollars of debt piled up.

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Illinois 115th District
Incumbent Bryant beats Jacobs in 115th Republican primary


State Rep. Terri Bryant held onto GOP support in the primary race Tuesday for the 115th House seat.

The incumbent beat out optometrist Paul Jacobs of Pomona, who is the proprietor of Von Jakob Winery and Brewery in Alto Pass.

With 96 percent of the vote counted, Bryant had 4,300 votes to Jacobs’ 3,459, about 55 percent to 45 percent.

As of press time, Jacobs had not conceded the race. A spokesman said the campaign wanted to see absentee ballots counted before making any comments. But with a lead in the double digits, Bryant was calling it a victory. 

The former Illinois Department of Corrections administrator will face Democrat Marsha Griffin in the general election in November.

“Clearly we know that we have the better message, and I’ve run against Marsha already, and I don’t think her message has changed any, so as we go forward, we’ve moved the state at least to a place where we’re starting to reduce the backlog of debt … if we can continue to live on a really strict fiscal diet, we can overcome all of this backlog of debt, (and) if we’re able to do that, begin to roll back that tax increase,” Bryant said.

In July 2017, Bryant broke ranks with Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican Party leadership to vote for a $5 billion tax increase that ended the historic state budget impasse, which had just entered its third year.

Shortly after that vote, Bryant told The Southern that party operatives were already looking for a primary opponent to run against her. 

"It was a tough vote to take, but it was a vote that had to be taken for this district," Bryant said Tuesday night. 

Jacobs announced he would challenge Bryant in October 2017. He said she had "joined hands with Chicago Democrats" on the tax hike and that he wanted to decrease the tax burden in Illinois. 

"I think tonight the voters spoke very clearly in this district. All over the state, those who voted their district were rewarded tonight," Bryant said. 

Bryant was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in November 2014.

The 115th Representative District includes Jefferson County and parts of Jackson, Perry, Union and Washington counties.


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U.S. 12th District
It's final: Bost, Kelly and Auxier will face off in November for U.S. 12th District

CARBONDALE — With wide margins in both primaries, Murphysboro Republican Mike Bost, Brendan Kelly, the Democrat from Swansea, and Green Party candidate Randy Auxier will face off this fall in the contest for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District.


Bost, the 12th’s incumbent, was the establishment Republican candidate in a lopsided primary race against Benton’s Libertarian Republican Preston Nelson.

As of press time, Bost had garnered about 83 percent of the vote to Nelson's 16.5 percent.

Bost ran on a typical red platform — pro-gun, anti-abortion, fiscal conservatism. In a candidate interview with The Southern, Bost said he opposed legalizing recreational marijuana while also pointing out that while he is a conservative candidate, he did not align himself with the far-right Freedom Caucus.

Should he be elected in November, it would be Bost’s third term in Washington and would begin his 25th year as an elected official — he served 20 years as an Illinois State Representative.


Preston Nelson

Compared to Nelson, Bost looked like a centrist. Nelson believes in an absolutely limited federal government whose primary purpose is to provide a large military but not to provide jobs or infrastructure. In a candidate profile interview, Nelson said he favored dismantling the Food and Drug Administration, saying that a free market would dictate what items were good and safe. He said he believes that if a company makes consumers sick, they will lose their market share and either be replaced or be forced to change. He did not believe a company would actively harm its consumers.

Regarding his opponent, Bost said being involved in the process is worth praising.  

“The fact that he got involved is an amazing feat in and of itself,” he said. 

Nelson said while he was disappointed, he didn't expect an easy fight.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy thing,” Nelson said, before thanking Bost for running a clean campaign. 

Nelson said he hadn't counted out another run.

“In a year or two from now, we will see what needs to be done,” he said.

On the Democratic ticket, voters had two primary choices: St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly and David Bequette, a veteran and cafe proprietor, of Columbia. The victor, Kelly, espoused more moderate platforms.

At press time, Kelly had about 81 percent of the vote to Bequette's about 18.9 percent.


“I’m not your cookie-cutter Democrat, that’s for sure,” he said in a candidate profile. In the profile, he said he is in favor of increased security on the U.S. border with Mexico. He also favored overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that flooded the political system with money.

In his candidate profile, Kelly also said he was passionate about fighting the influx of opioids, particularly as it concerns the flow of drugs from Mexico.

“We have to not be politically correct. We can’t be politically correct when it comes to understanding why so many people are dying of this,” he said in 2017.

While pleased at his victory Tuesday, Kelly was quick to return to these agenda items — he has big plans to take on 'Big Pharma' should he win in November. 

“We have to recognize that the pharmaceutical companies are not part of the solution, they are still part of the problem,” Kelly said of lawmakers focusing their efforts in fighting addiction on street dealers. 

Regarding President Donald Trump's announcement Monday that seemed to support the death penalty for some opioid dealers, the Kelly said he didn't entirely disagree. 

“I think there are some circumstances under which that doesn’t offend me,” Kelly said. “I get that visceral reaction … but if you don’t hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable that won’t make a difference.”

Looking ahead to November, the moderate Democrat said it is important not to look at the race in terms of party.

“This district is not deep deep red. It is not deep deep blue. This is a district that in the same year Donald Trump won, (so did) Tammy Duckworth,” he said. 


Meanwhile, Bequette, a veteran like Kelly, had stood in opposition to civilians owning assault-style weapons. He also supported legalizing recreational marijuana.

On Bequette’s website, he listed support for Planned Parenthood and women’s health as a priority of his campaign, as well making it a priority to defend civil liberties with a focus on police reform.

“I will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and push to reform the way law enforcement interacts with people of color in our communities,” Bequette’s website says. 

Both candidates cited a highly divisive political system as reasons for running.

Bequette could not be reached for comment.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale professor Auxier ran unopposed on the Green Party ticket and also will go on to compete in the 12th District race in November.