JB Pritzker got what he wanted.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, seems to have won a crowded Republican primary for the right to challenge the incumbent governor’s first reelection bid.
It’s no secret Pritzker wanted to face Bailey. He helped funnel money into efforts to question Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s conservative credentials, a push the rest of the GOP field willingly aided. On Saturday, Bailey embraced an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, giving Pritzker the chance to campaign against not just his opponent but the specific flavor of Republican he’s challenged during his entire time as the most prominent Illinois Democrat.
Even Pritzker’s opponents must acknowledge he’s shrewd, so whatever happens approaching November is a battle the governor chose. Likewise, anyone presuming Bailey’s primary victory guarantees Pritzker’s November success is clearly out over their prognosticating skis.
Whatever you might feel about Bailey’s politics, he has an undeniable authenticity that connects with voters. He comes across as more concerned about his own convictions than what might be politically expedient, an increasingly rare quality among modern elected officials of any party. That certainly distinguished him from the primary field and should serve him well going forward.
It’s certainly fair to suggest the state’s demographics aren’t in Bailey’s favor, that even if he amasses every bit of Republican support it won’t be enough. Pritzker has plenty of political strength and possesses his own brand of authenticity, especially contrasted with establishment Democrats in Washington, D.C., who despite being in power often seem better at fundraising than leading.
The stage is set for the fight both candidates wanted more than any other, the fruition of indicators dating back two years or more. Who has your vote?
BY THE NUMBERS: A personal favorite Twitter follow is @ILElectionData (or visit illinoiselectiondata.com), where former campaign staffer Scott Kennedy offers useful, nonpartisan information. On Monday, he reported the State Board of Elections’ early vote totals: 337,657 vote by mail requests, 155,946 returned, meaning 54% of those ballots may come in over the next two weeks.
ISBE also reported 234,165 early votes and 3,813 grace period ballots, a total of 393,924 votes cast before election week.
“Election authorities cannot legally count early or mail ballots prior to the polls closing and often those don’t get counted until last, and sometimes that can be the next day,” Kennedy wrote. “Plus, mail ballots can still be legally counted for up to two weeks. Because of this the numbers we see on election night can often be incomplete and misleading, and since early/VBM totals don’t factor into the precincts counted total we don’t know what or how much is still outstanding.”
It still seems Bailey emerged, but hold off on detailed analysis.
• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at email@example.com.