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2022 Illinois election results: JB Pritzker quickly defeats Daren Bailey

2022 Illinois election results: JB Pritzker quickly defeats Daren Bailey

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker won his re-election bid over Republican Sen. Darren Bailey — a decisive victory that also paves the way for future political aspirations.

The Associated Press called the race at 7 p.m., based on exit polls. About five hours later, with just over 79% reporting, Pritzker led Bailey 55% to 42.1%. Pritzker took the stage to give his victory speech at 8:13 p.m., referencing the networks that called the race.

“I am so thrilled to spend four more years as your governor,” Pritzker said with glee.

In a fiery speech reminiscent of his political speeches that sparked presidential speculation, Pritzker took direct aim at MAGA Republicans, saying he would defend Illinois at all costs when it comes to abortion rights.

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Bailey was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the primaries, but took care not to discuss Trump during the general election.

“Anyone who thinks they can come to this state and try to force a right-wing, MAGA war on a woman’s body will never gain an inch of Illinois,” Pritzker said.

In prepared remarks sent to reporters, Pritzker planned to say Bailey’s confession was a sign that democracy was working. It seemed to be a bit of a rosy scenario. Bailey didn’t concede at the time of Pritzker’s speech — and waited nearly 90 minutes to do so.

The Pritzker campaign later confirmed that Bailey finally conceded defeat at around 9:38 p.m., just minutes before the Republican took the stage to address his supporters in Springfield.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker celebrates with his wife, MK Pritzker, during an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on Tuesday night.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker celebrates with his wife, MK Pritzker, during an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on Tuesday night.

“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 supporters in Chicago. “The fight for democracy, the fight for freedom, the fight for freedom, the fight for decency should be peaceful, but not shy. It should be out loud. No politician should be afforded a convenient rhetorical hiding place.”

A crowd of more than 250 people packed the Great Lakes Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis for Pritzker’s election night. Loud cheers rang out when the AP announced the Pritzker election, with supporters waving flags and signs and chanting, “JB! JB!”

Supporters cheer as incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on Tuesday night.

Supporters cheer as incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago on Tuesday night.

In Springfield, the AP called the race before Bailey’s campaign began because supporters were still cheating. It happened so early, supporters didn’t even seem to realize it and didn’t react.

Bailey took the stage around 9:44 p.m., just minutes after “Sweet Home Chicago” blared over the public address system at the Crowne Plaza Springfield.

“This is not part of this speech, but there is still room for a miracle, my friends,” Bailey told the crowd. “There is still room for a miracle until all the votes are counted.”

But in the next breath, the Republican farmer from southern Illinois admitted the night didn’t go as he’d hoped. He said he called Pritzker to congratulate him on his victory, but vowed to remain part of the “opposition.”

“JB Pritzker you need to do better,” Bailey said.

Darren Bailey walks off stage after his speech at his campaign dinner Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza Springfield Convention Center in Springfield.

Darren Bailey walks off stage after his speech at his campaign dinner Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza Springfield Convention Center in Springfield.

Owen Ziliak/For the Sun-Times

Pritzker did his best — with words and millions of dollars worth of ads — to paint Bailey as an extremist who was too dangerous to be governor of the state. The Democrat focused on Bailey’s staunch opposition to abortion and his support for Trump.

But Bailey hoped to ride a wave of discontent in the state, especially those unhappy with President Joe Biden and the economy.

Four years ago, Pritzker dispatched Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner by nearly 16 percentage points. In terms of raw votes, Pritzker received more in 2018 than any Illinois gubernatorial candidate since 1976.

In the waning weeks of the campaign, Bailey did his best to pick up votes in Chicago and counties as Republicans across the country gained momentum. Bailey has called Chicago everything from a “hellhole” to an “unruly child” to the “OK” Corral.” He has often said that Pritzker’s policies are ruining the city and leading to out-of-control crime — following the GOP’s playbook of pinning crime on Democratic leaders.

Republican Darren Bailey speaks at his campaign dinner Tuesday in Springfield.

Republican Darren Bailey speaks at his campaign dinner Tuesday in Springfield.

Owen Ziliak/For the Sun-Times

Establishment Republicans in the state remain angry that Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent millions in ads to boost Bailey in the GOP primary — a plan that helped Pritzker pick his primary opponent in a crowded field.

After decisive legislative victories in his first year, Pritzker, like many governors across the country, has been forced to shift gears and lead the state’s response to the pandemic — trying to save lives while making enemies with his mandates and stay-at-home orders.

It was the pandemic that helped fuel the movement led by Bailey and his supporters. But the seeds were already planted back in 2018, when staunchly conservative former state Rep. Jeanne Ives narrowly defeated Rauner in the Republican primary.

Although Pritzker’s team has been coy about his future, political speeches in New Hampshire and Florida have fueled speculation that he is considering a presidential run. The governor is also looking to have Chicago host the Democratic National Convention, another sign that there is a trial bubble to see if Democrats see him as a presidential candidate.

Contributed by Alex Degman, WBEZ Statehouse reporter





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