Illinois has elected just two wealthy people to major statewide office in the past 20 years: former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald and current Governor Bruce Rauner.
Both candidates won because they ran as firm, anti-establishment outsiders. Fitzgerald was best known as a state senator in the 1990s for railing against the elders who ran his Republican Party, including many who had been supplying the GOP with loads of money over the years and who’d used their positions to handsomely profit from state business. Rauner also ran against his party’s insiders when he launched his campaign, dismissing them as bought and paid for by Springfield’s special interests.
What establishment-party support both men did receive mostly came at the end of their general-election campaigns. Their personal finances, which allowed them to self-fund, kept them free of establishment taint, and that independence gave both of them credibility as outsiders. As election day neared, some establishment GOP figures decided they’d better swallow their pride and get on board. The establishment needed the insurgents more than the insurgents needed the establishment.
Billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker isn’t following this pattern as he campaigns for governor.