- Tina Sfondeles
Gov. Bruce Rauner | Sun-Times file photo
Although he’s been coy publicly about his re-election campaign, Gov. Bruce Rauner made a big-money statement about his desire to serve a second term, contributing $50 million to his campaign fund this week.
It’s a surefire sign the 2018 gubernatorial campaign may become the most expensive on record. And a Rauner operative called the massive contribution “a first installment.”
Rauner contributed $50 million on Tuesday to Citizens for Rauner, Inc, his campaign committee, according to filings with the state’s Board of Elections.
The contribution is the largest individual contribution in Illinois history. The second largest is also from Rauner, when he donated $10 million to his campaign in 2014, according to Sarah Brune, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Brune also noted the timing and amount is also unprecedented in Illinois elections.
The Illinois Republican Party is already launching attacks on potential gubernatorial challengers, including Democrats Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker. A top Rauner operative said having a good chunk of early money allows them to determine when to begin the race and gives them “tactical flexibility.”
Hanah Jubeh, a Kennedy consultant, countered that the contribution is not a surprise.
“It’s no surprise that the governor is attempting to buy his re-election, because he sure hasn’t earned it,” Jubeh said. “If he believes his Christmas gift to himself intimidates anyone, he’s sorely mistaken.”
Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, on Thursday said the contributions show Rauner can’t run on his accomplishments alone.
“Looks like he’s running scared to me,” Brown said. “If you had the accomplishments, why would you have to spend that kind of money?”
A money war was also at play during the November election when Rauner spent record amounts to add Republican seats to the Illinois House and Senate.
Rauner spent a record $65 million during his 2014 campaign against former Gov. Pat Quinn. He contributed almost $28 million of his own money during that run.
The campaign jumpstart comes as a budget stalemate between Rauner and legislative leaders rages on, with a stopgap budget set to expire on Jan. 1.