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Rauner, Pritzker win primaries in Illinois governor’s race

CHICAGO (AP) – The race for Illinois governor will be a battle between two deep-pocketed candidates who’ve already sunk more than $120 million of their own money into the contest, putting it on pace to become the costliest such campaign in U.S. history.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy former private equity investor, defeated conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives on Tuesday for the GOP nomination.

“We are in a critical time, a critical turning point in Illinois,” Rauner told supporters. “I am humbled by this victory. You have given me a chance to win the battle against corruption that plagues Illinois.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

He will face Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker, an investor and heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune. Pritzker easily won the primary over Chris Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; and Daniel Biss, 40, a state senator who campaigned as the “middle-class candidate.”

Pritzker, 53, already has spent more than $70 million to bankroll his campaign, while Rauner has put in about $50 million and has received millions more from his wealthy friends in the business community. Combined they’re expected to top California in 2010 as the nation’s most expensive governor’s race.

Pritzker pledged to defeat Rauner but told supporters “we have a real fight ahead of us.”

“Tonight, we’ve taken the next step of beating Bruce Rauner and putting Illinois back on the side of working families,” he told a cheering crowd at his campaign party. “I will fight today, and tomorrow, and every day of this election and every day after to get our state back on track.”

Rauner, 61, took advantage of a national GOP wave four years ago to pull off a surprising victory in a state otherwise dominated by Democrats and win his first political office. Rauner’s personal wealth is just shy of $1 billion, but Pritzker – an investor and one of the heirs to the Hyatt hotel chain – is worth several times more.

Ives raised just $4 million – less than any of the other prominent candidates. Once dismissed by Rauner as a “fringe” candidate, she gave him a tougher-than-expected race, attacking the governor’s conservative credentials in edgy TV ads. One of them, which the chairman of the state GOP blasted as a “cowardly attempt to stoke political division,” portrays actors mockingly thanking Rauner for not doing enough to restrict illegal immigration, abortion and transgender bathroom rights.

In other races on the Illinois primary ballot, former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn – whom Rauner ousted in 2014 – was locked in a tough competition with state Sen. Kwame Raoul for state attorney general. There also are numerous contested congressional primary races, including progressive candidate Marie Newman’s challenge to seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski.

But none involved the kind of spending as seen in the governor’s race. Personal wealth solidified Rauner and Pritzker’s front-runner status but also made them frequent targets for opponent attacks. Even Kennedy spent $2 million of his own money on the race.

Biss, a Harvard-educated mathematician who gave up teaching to enter politics, set up a website to track what he says is a $171,000-a-day campaign by Pritzker. The Democratic front-runner has been advertising on television from nearly the moment he announced his candidacy 11 months ago.

Pritzker’s opponents also have attacked his connections with overseas trusts in low-tax countries, though he maintains they’re focused on charitable giving and that he has no control over them. In response, Biss has called him a “fraud” while Kennedy labeled him a “liar.”

But far more damaging were ads that Rauner ran against Pritzker after wiretap audio surfaced of him talking with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The ads included a 30-minute infomercial-style ad with the full FBI recordings.

Rauner took on Pritzker again when more tapes surfaced from the Chicago Tribune. They revealed Pritzker describing Secretary of State Jesse White – a Pritzker backer – as the “least offensive” black officeholder to be considered for the Senate seat vacated by then-President-elect Barack Obama. Pritzker has apologized, and White continues to back him.

Although Biss has built his campaign around claiming to be the “middle-class candidate,” he has faced criticism as the architect of a plan to cut the roughly $100 billion gap in pension funding for the cash-strapped state by reducing some of the promised retirement benefits. Although he says he has learned his lesson and won’t support it again, Pritzker has repeatedly criticized his change of heart.

Biss and Kennedy have teamed up against Pritzker for his silence on whether Michael Madigan, the longest-serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history, should step aside because of criticism about how he handled sexual harassment complaints by campaign workers against two of his political aides.

Rauner also has invoked Madigan in his ads against Ives, calling her “Mike Madigan’s favorite Republican and Illinois’ worst nightmare.”

Rauner rolled to victory in 2014 with a promise to “shake up” Springfield with a pro-business, anti-union agenda including lower property taxes and term limits on officeholders. But his ongoing spat with Madigan and other legislative Democrats left the state without a budget for two years while billions of dollars of debt piled up.

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O’Connor reported from Springfield, Illinois. Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Herbert McCann in Chicago and Sarah Zimmerman in Springfield contributed.

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Follow Sara Burnett at https://twitter.com/sara_burnett and John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .

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Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, center right, and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Evelyn Sanguinetti, left, cheer with their supporters on primary election night, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, center right, and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Evelyn Sanguinetti, left, cheer with their supporters on primary election night, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE – In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2018 file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address at the Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP File)

FILE – In this Jan. 31, 2018 file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address at the Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP File)

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE – In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE – In this Jan. 17, 2018 file photo, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss participates in a forum with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE - In this Jan. 2018 file photo Illinois Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives, speaks to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

FILE – In this Jan. 2018 file photo Illinois Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives, speaks to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in Chicago. (Rich Hein/Sun Times via AP File)

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy speaks to the press after voting in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy speaks to the press after voting in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy and his wife Sheila present their paper ballots to equipment manager Maria Escobedo as they vote in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy and his wife Sheila present their paper ballots to equipment manager Maria Escobedo as they vote in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy and his wife Sheila leave a polling place after voting with their daughter Clare, at left, in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy and his wife Sheila leave a polling place after voting with their daughter Clare, at left, in the Illinois primary election at the Kenilworth Club Tuesday March 20, 2018, in Kenilworth, Ill. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, and his running mate, State Representative Juliana Stratton, wearing red scarf, greet voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, and his running mate, State Representative Juliana Stratton, wearing red scarf, greet voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker greets voters at the CTA Roosevelt Orange and Green Line station in Chicago on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker hugs Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza at Manny's Deli on Election Day,  Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker hugs Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza at Manny’s Deli on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker poses for photos at Manny's Deli on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker poses for photos at Manny’s Deli on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Former governor and Illinois Attorney General candidate Pat Quinn holds up holds up an "I Voted" wrist band after voting, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Former governor and Illinois Attorney General candidate Pat Quinn holds up holds up an “I Voted” wrist band after voting, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Former governor and Illinois Attorney General candidate Pat Quinn holds up his ballot for the press after he finished voting, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Former governor and Illinois Attorney General candidate Pat Quinn holds up his ballot for the press after he finished voting, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Marie Newman, 3rd district Democratic candidate, waves to a supporter as she stands in front of Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn, Ill., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.   Newman is challenging seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski.  (Leslie Adkins/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Marie Newman, 3rd district Democratic candidate, waves to a supporter as she stands in front of Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn, Ill., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Newman is challenging seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski. (Leslie Adkins/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Marie Newman, 3rd district Democratic candidate, waits to greet voters outside Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn, Ill., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.   Newman is challenging seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski.  (Leslie Adkins/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Marie Newman, 3rd district Democratic candidate, waits to greet voters outside Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn, Ill., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Newman is challenging seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski. (Leslie Adkins/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker, left, shakes hands with Brian Daly at Manny's Deli on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker, left, shakes hands with Brian Daly at Manny’s Deli on Election Day, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Supporters watch a TV as they wait for Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on primary election night, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Supporters watch a TV as they wait for Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on primary election night, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

REMOVES REFERENCE TO WHO PRITZKER WILL FACE AS THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY IS TOO CLOSE TO CALL AT THE TIME OF THIS PHOTO - Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

REMOVES REFERENCE TO WHO PRITZKER WILL FACE AS THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY IS TOO CLOSE TO CALL AT THE TIME OF THIS PHOTO – Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Supporters wait for Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner during the election primary, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Supporters wait for Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner during the election primary, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives, with the winner going on to face the Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, left, addresses the crowd with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton after winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary over a field of five others, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, left, addresses the crowd with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton after winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary over a field of five others, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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