Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker emerged bruised but victorious in Tuesday's primary after pouring millions into their respective campaigns.
"Hang on to your hat," Republican state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights said of their faceoff in the Nov. 6 election. "It is going to be what was thought -- a race of the heavyweights with big dollars."
With more than 91 percent of precincts counted statewide, Hyatt hotel heir Pritzker had 538,541 votes after a six-way battle compared to investment banker Rauner's 329,986 with a single opponent, perhaps pointing to GOP challenges in the fall.
Pritzker and Rauner have raised a combined $145 million, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and both self-funded a large portion of their campaigns.
"The amount spent per voter come November ... will probably set records," Harris said.
Both men wasted no time lobbing salvos in victory speeches.
The fall election will be "a clear choice between someone who will stand up to the machine and someone who has long been part of it," Rauner said.
"I won't blame anyone else for my inability to compromise or get anything done," Pritzker said.
According to unofficial results, Rauner's Republican rival state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton had 308,790 votes. In the Democratic primary, developer Chris Kennedy tallied 283,105 and state Sen. Daniel Biss had 307,613.
Ignoring Ives initially, Rauner launched a volley of negative ads against Pritzker, most notably FBI tapes of the Chicagoan talking politics with disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Pritzker also had to go on defense after allegations he's beholden to Democratic power brokers like Speaker Michael Madigan.
But Rauner must explain an extended state budget crisis, legislative dysfunction and massive debt that's occurred under his watch.
"The question is how well can Pritzker pull the independents that went for Kennedy and Biss into the fold?" former Democratic state Sen. Bill Morris of Grayslake said.
Political expert Kent Redfield University of Illinois Springfield thinks Pritzker will be able to catch a Democratic wave. "He's in a blue state that Hillary Clinton won by 16 points and there's a lot of Democrats who are angry at President Donald Trump," Redfield said.
But Rauner supporters indicated that Republicans will continue to chip away at Pritzker on his ties to Madigan and ethical issues.
"What's he going to hit Bruce Rauner on? Is he going to hit him on the fact he's a billionaire?" asked Aaron Del Mar, Cook County Republican Central Committee deputy chairman.