Illinois Primary 2018: Gov. Bruce Rauner, J.B. Pritzker to square off in gubernatorial election

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor Bruce Rauner fought off a strong challenge in the Republican primary, and now he'll face Democrat JB Pritzker in the general election.

This governor's race may get billed as the battle of the billionaires, although Rauner's fortune may be shy of a billion; he wouldn't answer that question Wednesday.

Pritzker is worth more than $3 billion.

Some political observers say when the election is over in November, Pritzker and Rauner could top the record $280 million spent in the 2010 California governor's race. Rauner has already spent $50 million of his own money; Pritzker has already spent $70 million.

The billionaire Democratic nominee for governor thanked supporters Wednesday morning at the 95th street Red Line station after a surprisingly easy win Tuesday night, the final margin of victory nearly 20 points.

Pritzker made it clear in his victory speech that there was a few hours to sleep and then the general election gets underway in earnest. The goal: defeat Bruce Rauner at all costs.

ABC7 Eyewintess News sat down with Pritzker and his running mate State Rep. Julianna Stratton to talk about the campaign ahead and expected spending.

"We've got to beat the Republicans and then we can get real reform," Pritzker said.

When asked how much it will cost to win the general election he answered, "I don't know, but Illinois is worth it."

"Bruce Rauner's got the Koch brothers right wing network backing him where he's taken tens of millions of dollars over the last few years and in this campaign and then he wrote himself and enormous $50 million check, so as Senator Paul Simon once said about fighting for campaign finance reform, look we've got to go out there and make sure we're getting campaign finance reform, but in the meantime we can't unilaterally disarm," Pritzker said.

He told supporters Tuesday night that he plans to fight for working families, universal health care, legalizing and regulating marijuana and banning assault rifles.

Rauner launched a statewide campaign tour at CartonCraft Inc., a packaging plant in St. Charles, where he spoke to workers about creating jobs.

Rauner said he plans to meet with Republican voters who rejected him in the primary and talk to them about the issues that they do agree on to bring the party together, like lowering taxes, instead of focusing on the issues that divide them.

Meanwhile, he was laser focused on Pritzker, saying he is corrupt at his core and controlled by House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"He's gonna lose. We're gonna beat him because he is a machine politician. He's corrupt. He's an insider. He's a tax dodger. He's part of the corruption in our state and the people of Illinois don't want that," Rauner said.

"People have to be reminded Bruce Rauner, over three-plus years: no health care, no jobs, no education funding. Bruce Rauner's got to go," Pritzker fired back.

Pritzker also launched a website,, and then paraded in five people to provide the testimonials, making it clear this race will be a bitter battle until November.

The Mike Madigan factor will continue to be a theme for the Rauner camp.

"Madigan wants Pritzker. Madigan picked Pritzker as his hand-picked candidate. Pritzker is part of the machine," Rauner said.

ABC7 asked Pritzker if, after keeping Madigan at a distance during the primary, he will now embrace him.

"Look, I've been an independent leader my whole life and I'm not going to change when I become governor," Pritzker replied.

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Illinois' most expensive primary ever is now shaping up to be the nation's most costly race for governor.

Rauner said that money is important, but it's not going to determine the outcome of this election. He said he will be outspent by Pritzker and that he didn't inherit billions of dollars.
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