'I won't let you down': Pritzker celebrates election victory
With a boost from the suburbs, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is headed for a second term Tuesday after deflecting a challenge from conservative state Sen. Darren Bailey with 79% of votes counted.
As of late Tuesday, Democrat Pritzker had 55% of votes compared to 42.2% for Republican Bailey, according to unofficial results.
"I'm grateful tonight," Pritzker said in Chicago. "Illinois continues a long tradition of peaceful and fair elections and I am so thrilled to spend four more years as your governor. I won't let you down."
But he also asked a cheering crowd at the Marriott Marquis if they "were ready for the fight."
When deciding if he'd run for reelection, Pritzker recounted asking himself "if I was ready for the fight again, because this is a moment requiring a steel spine for the years ahead as our nation's fundamental ideals are under siege."
Bailey told supporters he had called Pritzker and "congratulated him on his win tonight."
"There's still room for a miracle until all the votes are counted," Bailey said. "But from what we know, tonight didn't turn out the way we wanted. Thanks to God, we still have so many blessings."
Preliminary tallies showed Pritzker leading in populous suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.
"Sen. Bailey was the wrong candidate or matchup for suburban and city women," said former Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
"In a year where Democrats made abortion its major issue, Darren was too pro-life for many as he was not for exceptions for rape or incest. Like sports, Sen. Bailey was a bad match up for this year's issues for suburban women and he was up against a billionaire willing to spend whatever it took to win."
On most issues during the volatile campaign battle, Xenia farmer Bailey and Chicagoan Pritzker were polar opposites, sparring on abortion rights, crime, the economy and COVID-19 mitigations.
Bailey focused on crime in Chicago and continually castigated the controversial SAFE-T Act, which ends cash bail for some crimes as of Jan. 1.
"J.B., you need to be better," Bailey said. "I may not go back to Springfield as your next governor, but I will never stop fighting for you."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade in June allowed Pritzker to frame the election around Bailey's opposition to abortion.
"To anyone who thinks they can come into this state and try to force some right wing, MAGA
war on a woman's body -- you will never get an inch of Illinois," said Pritzker, who also took on former President Donald Trump in his remarks.
"Here we are, two years into cleaning up the wreckage of Donald Trump's presidency, poised to watch this man announce his return to national politics within days.
"Why? Because GOP politicians, with the exception of only a few souls, are too cowardly, too simpering to support the best interests of the nation because they're afraid of being called insulting nicknames by a whiny bully," said Pritzker, who's been rumored as a possible presidential candidate.
Pritzker has said he's focused on the state not the White House.
Outside a polling site at the Helen Plum Library in Lombard, Lorraine Gluth called herself a "happy Bailey voter." Bailey is "a different person with a different objective. I think it's good to have a change," she said.
Meanwhile, Martin Stark opted for Pritzker because "I think he handled the COVID situation as best as he could handle it. Seems like everything's going well. I'm the type of voter 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"
While Pritzker had an easy June 28 primary, Bailey faced a six-way race. But his unapologetic conservatism and an endorsement from Trump struck a chord with the GOP base who handed him a victory with 57.5% of votes.
Many establishment Republicans and megadonors, like hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, supported moderate Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, and when Bailey won, they spent the general election on the sidelines.
That left Bailey at a significant cash disadvantage in a blue state with Hyatt hotel heir Pritzker able to pour millions into his race.
Libertarian Scott Schluter of Marion received 2.8% of votes.