Governor's race could be most expensive in history

Political Editor

The populist political battle between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner could create a cauldron of political advertising for the next eight months, with the two candidates spending more money on the race than any in Illinois history.

Rauner used his vast wealth to flood Illinois TV markets with advertising in the primary and monopolized the financial support of business leaders to keep campaign cash away from his Republican opponents.

"He's got a simple message that resonates. Springfield has problems," Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, said. "And he had the money to make that message known."

Rauner won't have the same luxury in his matchup against Quinn, who can expect support from major Democratic donors and national support from the Democratic Governors Association.

Quinn already started airing a TV ad Tuesday night hitting Rauner over his changing stance on the state's minimum wage.

And on Wednesday, the Republican Governors Association sent $750,000 to Rauner, campaign records show.

Mooney said it won't necessarily matter which candidate spends more because each will have enough cash to blanket Illinois with his message.

"Quinn's going to have a ton of money," Mooney said. "He's going to have all the money he needs."

In 2010, the candidates for governor spent about $38.8 million on the general election race as a group, according to an analysis by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

That was more than the record $29.6 million spent by the candidates in 2006.

Democrat Rod Blagojevich set the single-candidate record for spending in 2006 at more than $22 million.

Rauner could use his campaign money for other purposes, too. In the primary, he sent nearly $300,000 to Republican candidates, causes and local organizations as he built up goodwill toward Tuesday.

In the long march toward November, Rauner could use his fortune to help candidates for statehouse seats as his party fights for increased relevancy at an Illinois Capitol controlled by Democrats.

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