Did the Illinois Gubernatorial “Battle of the Billionaires” Just End?

Fifty-five million bucks will buy an awful lot, but it didn’t buy Griffin sufficient due diligence on Irvin’s record as Aurora mayor, which turned out to include assorted colorful scandals. The most piquant of these was a police report that said Hizzoner, after his then-girlfriend hit a security guard in a marijuana store, told his beloved that the charges would be taken care of. Irvin later conceded that he may have said such a thing, but insisted that his words were misinterpreted. Irvin was also reported last month, by Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune, to be a clumsy flip-flopper on gun control, abortion, mask mandates, and Black Lives Matter (Irvin is African American). “Irvin’s campaign staff,” Pearson wrote, “is keeping him to a tight script with little public or media interaction and few direct answers to questions about Republican politics or issues of the day.”

Irvin may yet scratch out a victory on Tuesday. But if the campaign’s internal polling gave Irvin a ghost of a chance, would Griffin time his announced departure from the Prairie State five days before the primary? “Ken continues to believe Richard Irvin is the best candidate for governor of Illinois,” a Griffin spokesperson said Thursday. But Griffin has already voted with his feet. The four-story penthouse condominium in Chicago that he purchased in 2017 for $58.75 million is being put up for sale.

The 2022 election has actually been not Griffin’s second face-off with Pritzker, but his third. The second, in 2020, was over whether Illinois should have a progressive income tax. The reason Illinois is broke is that its state pension obligations exceed available funds by $140 billion, a problem dating back to the 1990s. To address the problem equitably, Pritzker proposed changing the state’s flat income tax of about 5 percent to a modestly progressive tax that rose to about 8 percent. Pritzker shepherded the required amendment to the state constitution through the state legislature. That placed it on the ballot for ratification. Pritzker spent $58 million to pass the progressive state income tax. Griffin spent about as much to kill it. When the votes were counted, Pritzker’s tax reform failed, 47-53.

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