J. B. Pritzker, WTF are you thinking?

I don’t pay much attention to Illinois state politics, so I wasn’t aware of this until I saw the primary results yesterday:

Gov. Pritzker, a Democratic billionaire who easily won renomination, financed his GOP challenger’s primary campaign.

[Bailey’s] victory was assisted by more than $40 million in advertising by Pritzker and the Pritzker-supported Democratic Governors Association, which ran ads attacking [GOP opponent Richard] Irvin while labeling Bailey as “too conservative for Illinois.”

This earns a double WTF from me.

WTF #1: Bailey is a full-Trumpist wingnut who backs the Big Lie and all the worst of GOP positions. While Pritzker is likely to beat him, you can’t take anything for granted these days. If a red wave captures enough Illinois voters, we’ll be stuck with this jackass in the statehouse for four years.

WTF #2: How blatantly un-democratic is it to pick your opponents? Nothing screams “deep state” like a billionaire spending his own money to fuck with the other side’s primary. I know, “politics ain’t beanbag,” but IMO this is pure sleaze (even if it’s right out in the open).

I’ll still vote for Pritzker in November because I simply can’t vote GOP. (And yes, and I know who I sound like.) But I’m just a little ashamed to be an Illinois Democrat this week.

Worked for Claire McCaskill in MO in 2012. Entirely legitimate political strategy, IMO. Can backfire, of course, but we’ll see.

It’s a valid political strategy under our system, and certainly not a novel one.

I tend to disagree with it though, Pritzker is highly unlikely to lose to a candidate who has in the past advocated kicking Chicago out of Illinois. However, I think you’re generally not being smart when you promote extremist candidates from the other side. Yes, it may make it more likely for you to win the next election, but it also gives extremists in the other party a bigger platform than they would already have. This can contribute to further normalizing and growth of extremist ideas.

The Washington Post Editorial Board had an editorial out yesterday denouncing this very thing:

Opinion | Democrats like Pritzker should not fund right-wing candidates like Bailey - The Washington Post

This is going on all over the nation and hopefully won’t backfire. Democratic campaigns feeling like their best bet to win is if they’re running against Trump by proxy of hard MAGA extremist candidates. Like others, I’m not in love with the idea. As noted, it’s not especially unusual and the GOP has done the same attempts at candidate picking in the past, using PACs to boost opponents less electable in the general. Which isn’t to say it’s okay if they do it, just that it’s not new to 2022.

We thought that running against Trump, himself, would guarantee victory. How did that work out?

Great point.


After the last handful of years, I don’t think backing a spider monkey in the Republican primary is a guarantee. That won’t guarantee a Democratic victory like you’d hope, it might mean you’re dealing with a spider monkey in office.

I think the validity of this strategy depends not so much on the Trumpist nutjob that you are promoting, but on the other Republican that you are attempting to eliminate from the race. If that’s one of the few remaining Republicans left with any integrity, then I don’t like it. But the problem is that there’s almost nobody left like this. If it’s a choice between a rabid Trumpist and someone who is just going to be an enabler of the current path of the Republican Party, then it makes sense to do what Pritzker is doing and go all out for the win.

[ pretty much ninjaed by @Atamasama ]

Having just lived through months of ads for the Republican gubernatorial candidates here in Illinois, that was the argument that was being made here:

  • Richard Irvin (mayor of the city of Aurora, and who is black) argued that the Democrats were trying to get Bailey nominated because he (Irvin) was the candidate that Pritzker was most afraid of
  • Irvin’s opponents ran ads accusing Irvin of being a Democrat, a supporter of Black Lives Matter, and an admirer of Pritzker

Irvin’s campaign was heavily backed by a billionaire, Ken Griffin, and early in the campaign, Irvin was leading in the polls. I don’t know to what extent the Democrat-funded ads helped Bailey (who ran a lot of ads on his own, and who was backed by another billionaire, Richard Uihlein), but Bailey wound up winning the nomination with an even bigger margin than expected.

Exactly! So you may win this election (maybe), but then the voters seem to think that your opponent’s lunacy is a valid political position as opposed to something outside the norm.

Yeah, not that I think the strategy is a great one but I doubt it made any difference in the election. Bailey was the Trump-endorsed favorite with a healthy lead.

To be frank, this is a silly place to draw the line. With Citizens United and all the dark money in politics this barely registers as problematic. It’s a gamble for sure, but getting wound up about the wrongness of this is kind of absurd. Richard Irvin was almost entirely bankrolled by Ken Griffin so Pritzker is simply balancing the scales so that the GOP didn’t have a bought and paid for candidate. Election reform is a must for this country, but so long as it’s the wild wild west I’m glad to have moneyed people who don’t stand (and lose) on some silly principle on my side for a change.

Pritzker has been one of the best Governors of my lifetime. His actions both on the budget and on COVID have been far and above any reasonable expectation. Perhaps you can focus on the policy and performance of the actual job instead of shooting yourself in the face worrying about this noise. It’s the world we live in, being disgusted by the system is fine, but singling out Pritzker here is the exact kind of self-defeating stuff the left is famous for.

This case I think has a bit more nuance. Pritzker isn’t just choosing to run against a MAGA hat, he’s neutralizing the only candidate who seemed likely to match his ability to finance a campaign in the General. With Irvin backed by Griffin money he would have been able to go ad-buy for ad-buy with Pritzker and likely recruit a strong GOP fleet of campaign workers. A clown like Bailey isn’t going to get the same support. So yeah, he’s choosing a candidate with more extreme views in a left-middle leaning state but he’s also choosing a much less well funded candidate which might be more valuable. (And it should be noted, getting rid of the Black candidate which always draws a share of those traditionally blue voters too).

Yes. When the enemy is trying to destroy democracy completely and turn the country into a fascist theocracy, all that matters is the realpolitik. There are valid criticisms that this kind of thing may backfire strategically, but please let’s set aside the pearl-clutching over ethical concerns when this is both transparent and currently legal.

To be fair, and as I noted upthread, Bailey (at least until now) has been backed by someone with deep pockets, as well - Richard Uihlein, heir to the Schlitz brewing fortune, and owner of Uline, a shipping products company. Uihlein has been an active donor for GOP candidates and causes in recent years.

His pockets aren’t quite as deep as Griffins and he’s a Cheesehead. Certainly he will be a problem but Bailey-Uihlein is a weaker team than Irvin-Griffin. It would be interesting to know at what point Pritzker stopped spending money on anti-Irvin or pro-Bailey ads. Did he see the polling data moving heavily towards Bailey early on and step back or did they keep the gas on after it seemed clear that Bailey was a safe bet. I also wonder if Pritzker has some dirt on Bailey that they plan to drop close to election day which is why he wanted him so bad.

He is, though he and his wife apparently live in Lake Forest.

This is wrong in principle and not a good precedent to set, although precedent is an obsolete term these days.

Trump can’t be used as a precedent. His personal charisma is extremely rare, especially combined with the decades of national fame and name recognition he had. Sarah Palin has had diminishing returns. Madison Cawthorn had a mayfly’s life. I don’t know anything about Bailey but there are no guns in his Twitter feed. How can he win without shooting at RINOs?

What will happen in our grim, brutal reality is similar to the reaction to a football coach calling a trick play. It it succeeds he’s hailed as a genius. If it fails, he’s forever remembered as a dunce, and may be fired in the future because of it.

As noted, this strategy could backfire since the extremist loon nominated thanks to your money might just beat you.

Voters disgusted by the philosophy of “we’ll do whatever nasty, sleazy things our opponents do, in spades” could decide that the lesser of two evils is the outsider who shakes things up. Not that we’ve seen such “mavericks” elected before. :crazy_face:

Pennsylvania Democrat uses California playbook to pick GOP rival - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)