Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner won the Republican primary for the gubernatorial election Tuesday by around 20,000 votes, or just two points ahead of conservative challenger state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
Rauner is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican governors in America, and now faces Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel founder and former national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Rauner has served as governor since 2015 after he unseated incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. He narrowly won his first gubernatorial primary, then went on to defeat two challengers in the statewide election.
“This primary election was hard fought. Yes,” Rauner said Tuesday evening, congratulating his “opponent on her principled stand” without mentioning Ives by name.
“To those of you around the state of Illinois who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear: I have heard you,” Rauner said. “I have traveled the state and I have listened to you. While we disagree on some things, let’s commit to working together on what unites us — the reforms we need to save our state.”
Conservatives have largely turned on Rauner in his three years in office, pointing to a number of broken promises and strange gaffes, including when he said that he was “not in charge,” but blamed inaction on the economy on state House Speaker Michael Madigan. Leading up to the primary Tuesday, two polls had Rauner and Ives neck and neck, a GOP consultant told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Ives’ campaign sparked interest in the race with ads attacking Rauner’s lack of conservative record. That ad was paid for by conservative donor Richard Uihlein, who switched his support from Rauner and donated $2.5 million to Ives’ campaign in January alone, according to Politico.
Conservative publication National Review endorsed Ives a week before the primary campaign March 16, saying Rauner “has failed to deliver on his promises even after Republicans picked up enough seats in 2016 to sustain a veto.”
Rauner dismissed Ives as a fringe candidate, but then barely won the nomination. The governor has some ammunition against Pritzker — who has poured $70 million of his own money into his campaign so far — but Republicans are concerned that Rauner won’t attract voters to the polls for the midterms.
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