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Conservative Illinois state Sen. Darren Bailey wins GOP primary for governor

Darren Bailey, Illinois state Senator and Republican candidate for governor, speaks alongside former President Donald Trump on Saturday, June 25, 2022, during a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill. Trump has endorsed Bailey in the race.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Darren Bailey, Illinois state Senator and Republican candidate for governor, speaks alongside former President Donald Trump on Saturday, June 25, 2022, during a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill. Trump has endorsed Bailey in the race.

Updated June 28, 2022 at 9:35 PM ET

CHICAGO - Out of six Republican candidates for Illinois governor, conservative state Sen. Darren Bailey has won the primary, according to a race call from The Associated Press.

He and incumbent Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, will go head-to-head in November. Pritzker predictably won his two-way race Tuesday evening.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Darren Bailey Saturday after his popularity had been growing in the polls for months.

The 2022 race for governor in Illinois is shaping up to be one of the most expensive gubernatorial elections in history. Pritzker, a billionaire, and two other mega-donors spent tens of millions of dollars trying to influence the outcome of the Republican primary.

In fact, the governor – and the Democratic Governors Association – ran ads attempting to help Bailey win.

Pritzker's and the DGA's strategy appears to be that Bailey would be one of the easier Republican candidates to beat in November's election, with their ads echoing that Bailey's policies "are just too conservative for Illinois."

It's not uncommon for one party to get involved in the other's primary, but it doesn't always work.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks during a transgender support rally at Federal Building Plaza on April 27, 2022 in Chicago. Pritzker, a Democrat, is up for reelection in November.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks during a transgender support rally at Federal Building Plaza on April 27, 2022 in Chicago. Pritzker, a Democrat, is up for reelection in November.

"I think it's obvious Gov. Pritzker thinks I'm the easiest candidate to beat, and my message to Gov. Pritzker is 'be careful what you wish for because it's coming right toward you,' " Bailey and Illinois ABC TV station. "The people of Illinois are absolutely fed up with the state of our state. They're ready for something different."

Bailey is a grain farmer from southern Illinois who has a distinct twang in his voice.

He's pro-gun rights and opposes abortion rights. And, as seen by his endorsement, he is a fervent supporter of Trump.

He also constantly criticizes the city of Chicago despite the fact that, as governor, he would oversee that economic engine of the state.

"Let's just call it like it is. Let's think about Chicago: A crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole," Bailey said at a debate hosted by Chicago TV station WGN.

Bailey also went so far as to sponsor a resolution that would separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois. It went nowhere in the state's Democratic-led legislature.

That kind of rhetoric, though, has endeared him to wealthy businessman Dick Uihlein, who runs a shipping supply company bearing his last name. He has given Bailey's campaign more than $9 million. Uihlein is a major Republican donor who funded a group involved in the rally before the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Traditionally, Illinois GOP voters support more moderate Republicans who fit the mold of someone more like Richard Irvin. Irvin is the mayor of the Chicago suburb of Aurora — once made famous as the home of Wayne Campbell in Saturday Night Live's sketch "Wayne's World".

Irvin had all the makings of running a highly competitive campaign in November thanks in large part to the $50 million dollars Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin contributed to him, but Irvin still couldn't pull out a win. Griffin founded and runs the hedge fund firm Citadel.

Copyright 2022 WBEZ

Dave McKinney
Dave McKinney, state politics reporter at WBEZ, spent 19 years as the Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief with additional stops at Reuters and the Daily Herald. His work also has been published in Crain's Chicago Business, the New York Times and Chicago Magazine.
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