After an intense election season where crime fueled racial tensions, Governor JB Pritzker on Election Day cruised to a second term with a solid victory over Republican Darren Bailey. Pritzker led Democratic incumbents as they held off an effort by conservative rightwing extremists to capture key political offices.
Cheers erupted as Pritzker spoke before 250 supporters at his election night party at the Marriott Marquis near McCormick Place.
“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,” Pritzker said.
The Associated Press news agency, using data from exit polling, called the race at 7 p.m. Pritzker won 54.8 percent of the vote to Bailey’s 42.4 percent. In 2018, Pritzker defeated Republican incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner by nearly 16 percentage points
“There’s no nice or easy way to say this, but until the Republican Party is ready to expel the extremists in their midst, we need to do it for them at the ballot box,” Pritzker told his supporters in Chicago.
“The fight for democracy, the fight for freedom, the fight for liberty, the fight for decency should be peaceful but not be timid. It needs to be out loud. It should afford no politician a convenient rhetorical hiding place.”
Bailey did not concede until nearly 90 minutes after the governor spoke.
It was a victorious night for the state’s Democratic candidates, many of whom painted the Republicans as too extreme for Illinois.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul were elected to a second term, and Alexi Giannoulias won his race to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White. Susana Mendoza was re-elected as Illinois Comptroller.
Jonathan Jackson won his race to succeed Congressman Bobby Rush for the 1st District of the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Robin Kelly of the 2nd Congressional District was re-elected.
In the 14th District, Lauren Underwood, who made history in 2018 as the youngest Black Congresswoman in U.S. history, won a third term in a predominately Republican district.
In races in the Illinois Assembly, State Representatives Emanuel Welch (7th District), La Shawn Ford (8th District) and Sonya Harper (6th District) won their races. Also re-elected were State Representatives Justin Slaughter (27th District), Thaddeus Jones (29th District), William Davis (30th District) and Mary Flowers (31st District).
In local races, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Tax Assessor Fritz Kaegi, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart were all re-elected.
Pritzker’s victory capped a last-minute effort to boost his appeal to Black voters, many of whom had grown disillusioned with the governor’s leadership and blame him for the absence of Black-owned cannabis dispensaries in Chicago.
Two days before Election Day, Pritzker joined Vice President Kamala Harris for a get out the vote rally at the XS Tennis Center in Washington Park. The relatively small turnout raised questions about Black voter turnout days before Election Day. On November 4, Pritzker traveled to Roseland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Old Fashioned Donuts.
Leading with double digits in opinion polls, Pritzker’s victory was expected as Bailey faced an uphill battle in a Democratic state.
Making reproductive rights a concern after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the landmark Roe V. Wade case in June, Pritzker stuck to a progressive message that included protecting abortion rights for women and keeping the gradual minimum wage law that will require employers to pay workers $15 an hour.
Endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Bailey’s campaign fueled racial tensions as political television advertisements dramatized Chicago’s crime problem that has spread to affluent North Side neighborhoods and the city’s outlying neighborhoods.
Bailey called Chicago several names, including “Hellhole” and an “unruly child” and “OK corral.” Bailey once told a resident that if elected governor, he would repeal the “SAFE-T Act.”
After a mass shooting in September in Washington Park that killed two people and injured seven, Bailey held a press conference there bemoaning rising crime under Democratic leadership. The move was viewed as an insult to Chicago’s Black leadership who accused Bailey of engaging in “political theater.”
Bailey’s appeal to Illinois voters suffered as he was accused of being a political extremist who engaged in anti-Semitism. During his campaign, Bailey came under fire for a video he posted on Facebook in 2017, in which he said the Holocaust “doesn’t even compare” to abortion, which he called “one of the greatest atrocities of our day.” After the mass shooting in Highland Park on July 4, Bailey urged residents to “move on,” a message that was used against him in the governor’s race.
In the final days leading up to Election Day, Bailey’s supporters ran television ads that resurrected an incident that happened four years ago, where Pritzker was caught on a wiretapped recording disparaging several Black leaders. The ad also included Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward), who last week expressed outrage at the wealthy conservative radio mogul Dan Proft, who he said did not consult him or seek Beale’s approval of the television ad.
Bailey rarely mentioned Trump’s name or endorsement during his campaign, but he publicized an endorsement from former ABC7 Chicago political reporter Charles Thomas. Bailey’s running mate, Stephanie Trussell, was viewed as an attempt to appeal to Black voters in a way Pritzker’s Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton has done.