Illinois election: Big money funnels in to lower-profile state races

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, October 19, 2022

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is no shortage or money in the Illinois governor's race as both candidates are raising and spending millions. But big campaign cash isn't just isolated to major races.

Several candidates running for the Illinois General Assembly are also spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads.

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"State representative districts are not very big and those ads are very expensive," ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington said. "They reach millions, but only a very small fraction of people you are targeting."

While it may not be the best bang for the buck, some state rep candidates have raised enough money to afford the ads. According to Reform for Illinois Sunshine data tracker, several have raised well over a million dollars.

"There is a lot of money in Illinois state races, probably more than any other states," said Alisa Kaplan, with Reform for Illinois.

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Kaplan said most of the money raised for smaller races are not coming from smaller donors.

"The money tends to come from a handful of people who really control the purse strings in the state," she said.

In this election cycle, it's Democrats who are dominating the fundraising. Kaplan said Governor JB Pritzker and House Speaker Chris Welch have learned to use different campaign finance loopholes to bring in huge donations and distribute it to state races.

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"They can transfer that money directly to candidates they want to support or to party committees who have much fewer limits on the amount of money they can spend," Kaplan said.

"Democrats feel there is a lot at stake here," Washington added. "They want to gold on to their super majority and they need every single state rep seat to ensure that."

Democrats are outspending Republicans because the party no longer has the deep of pockets of Bruce Rauner or Ken Griffen.

Regardless of which party is raising the most funds, Reform for Illinois says when it comes to money, ordinary voters have a very small role in influencing races, even one for state representative.