Apr 26, 2022 - Politics

Billionaire aims to shake up Illinois GOP gubernatorial race

Pictures of guys

Republican candidates for Illinois governor are, from left, businessman Gary Rabine, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, state Sen. Darren Bailey and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf. Not pictured, Max Solomon. Photo: Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

If you just watched his television and streaming ads, you would think that Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin had already won the GOP gubernatorial primary. His ads are focused primarily on incumbent Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

  • But Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein is hoping to shake up the race.

What's happening: Last week, Uihlein pledged $2.5 million to downstate Sen. Darren Bailey. He had already donated $1 million to Bailey's campaign.

  • Uihlein is the owner of Uline shipping. He threw his support behind Bailey in February.
  • He is also donating $1 million to an attack campaign against Irvin headed by right-wing talk show host Dan Proft.
  • He supports far-right causes and campaigns, including organizations that backed 2020 election fraud theories.

Context: Bailey is a far-right gubernatorial candidate from rural Clay County in southern Illinois. He is a vocal critic of Pritzker's COVID mandates and has questioned the conservative credentials of front-runner Irvin.

At a recent campaign rally in Anna, Illinois, Bailey promised to send "shockwaves" through the state on Election Day.

What they're saying: "We're going to take Illinois by storm," Bailey promised at the weekend rally. "It's the grassroots movement. It's people who have never been involved in the political climate system."

State of play: Irvin is the presumed front-runner because of the backing of Illinois' richest man, Ken Griffin. Griffin pledged $20 million to Irvin's campaign. Irvin has already spent $11.9 million, mostly on campaign ads.

The other side: Pritzker is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. But that hasn't stopped him from raising $90 million and spending over $17 million on the campaign, including Irvin attack ads.

What's next: The gubernatorial primary is June 28.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more