Illinois politicians raise big, self-fund ahead of midterm elections


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Illinois Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, state legislature and state executive offices outraised their Republican counterparts this midterm elections.

Jorja Siemons, Print Managing Editor

Midterm election results are in for Illinois — and Democratic politicians have successfully held on to power in both Springfield and Washington, D.C.

Democrats outpaced their Republican counterparts not just in votes but also dollars this election cycle. Ahead of Election Day, candidates campaigning on reproductive, voting and criminal justice rights racked in large sums from political action committees, state political parties and even personal bank accounts.

This election cycle was marked by groundbreaking fundraising. According to a new OpenSecrets data analysis, elections across the country cost more than $16.7 billion — making it the most expensive midterms in U.S. history.

Not all elections resulted in blue strongholds — control of the U.S. Senate and House remains up in the air — but Illinois Democrats took contested races.

For Evanston residents, the Illinois gubernatorial race had the highest price tag on the ballot. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), a billionaire whose father managed and developed the Hyatt Hotel chain, won reelection against Republican candidate Darren Bailey.

Pritzker’s campaign committee, JB for Governor, reported more than $80.8 million raised this election cycle, according to Illinois State Board of Elections filings. About a quarter — $20 million — of this total comes from Pritzker’s self-funding in late September.

This total is significantly lower than Pritzker’s 2018 fundraising, when he nearly broke the existing gubernatorial fundraising record held by California politician Meg Whitman by giving his campaign $171.5 million and raising an additional $4.8 million.

Bailey, who lost with 43.2% of the vote according to Associated Press data, has represented the 55th district in the Illinois State Senate since January 2021. He made headlines in June when former President Donald Trump endorsed him.

His campaign, Bailey for Illinois, raised more than $2.4 million as of Sept. 30 while criticizing abortion rights legislation, Pritzker’s COVID-19 policies and the SAFE-T Act, which will eliminate cash bail in the state.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, former prosecutor and democratic state Senator, also won reelection last night. Raoul faced off against Republican Tom DeVore, a constitutional attorney who’s pursued legal battles against Pritzker’s COVID-19 policies for two years.

Raoul’s campaign had raised more than $2.7 million as of Sept. 30, with large checks from Planned Parenthood Illinois Action PAC and Democratic Party of Illinois disclosed following the filing deadline for the year’s third fiscal quarter.

DeVore trailed behind with only more than $483,000 raised as of Sept. 30. Top funding came from individuals associated with produce supplier Anthony Marano Company and grocery chain Pete’s Market.

Dollars fuel U.S. Congress seats

Candidates also spent significantly on the race for state representation in the U.S. Congress, with Evanston’s Democratic representatives snagging the vote.

While Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)’s current term ends in 2027, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) faced reelection Tuesday. She emerged victorious with more than 55% of the vote, according to the Associated Press.

A veteran of the Iraq War, Duckworth has held the seat since 2016. She had raised more than $14.2 million as of Oct. 19, with her joint fundraising committee Duckworth Victory Fund raising over $2 million.

Duckworth’s Republican opponent Kathy Salvi, a personal injury lawyer and former public defender, also self-funded $480,000 out of her total $1.2 million raised as of Oct. 19. Salvi was endorsed by Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, whose Champion American Values PAC donated $2,500 to her campaign. She ultimately came up short with only 42.3% of the vote.

On the House side, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) snagged 70% of the vote against Republican challenger Max Rice in Illinois’ 9th District. In the seat since 1999, Schakowsky focused her campaign this year on voters’ rights and reproductive rights.

Rice, an energy consultant who said he would disown his party affiliation if he won the seat, centered his platform around nonpartisan governing. He raised $9,895 to Schakowsky’s more than $1.5 million as of Oct. 19, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Snagging the statehouse

Candidates for the state legislature in Springfield also raked in political contributions.

On the ballot for Illinois Senate, incumbent Laura Fine (D-Glenview) successfully fought off Republican challenger Paul Kelly for her 9th district seat, which represents all of Evanston. Fine’s campaign, Friends of Laura Fine, had raised more than $325,700 as of Sept. 30 — over $318,000 more than Kelly.

After the filing deadline, Fine received $2,500 from Stand for Children Illinois PAC, an education equity-focused PAC that also financially supported State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) in her reelection campaign for District 17.

Gong-Gershowitz currently represents 6th Ward Evanston residents who live west of McDaniel Avenue — and she won reelection Tuesday night. She recently sponsored the TEAACH Act, a bill focused on expanding Asian American history curriculum in Illinois schools.

Gong-Gershowitz had raised a little more than $329,000 as of Sept. 30 and received an additional $13,720 check from the Democratic Party of Illinois on Oct. 22.

Republican candidate Bradley Martin, founder of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, sought to unseat her but didn’t report any political contributions to the state’s board of elections.

The rest of Evanston falls into District 18, where Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) won reelection with 81% of the vote, according to Associated Press data. Gabel had more than $536,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, receiving donations following this filing deadline from the Democratic Party of Illinois, Illinois PAC for Education and Genentech.

Her opponent, Republican private attorney and president of Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce Charles Hutchinson, raised about $6,000 as of Sept. 30. All but $1,000 of this total comes from Voter Protection NFP PAC.

“I was very fortunate to find a generous donor who believes in my message for the people of the 18th District, and I am even more fortunate to have found more donors who are hard-working parents, small business owners, and voters who also believe in my message,” Hutchinson said in an email on Nov. 7 to The Daily.

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Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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