Illinois governor’s race is on track to become the most expensive statewide election in United States history, expecting to cost more than $300 million next year, according to Politico.
This surpasses the current record-holder for office, which rounded out to be $280 million for California governor’s race between former eBay executive Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown in 2010.
The candidates have already raised a combined effort of nearly $90 million. And the general election is 16 months away.
Bruce Rauner’s campaign fund has raised about $70 million — $50 million through personal contribution and $20 million from donations from billionaire Ken Griffin; the single largest individual donation in Illinois history.
J.B. Pritzker has also primarily self-funded his campaign with a total of $14 million.
It’s not just the money that makes this race unique, the candidates have started unprecedentedly early airing ads to promote themselves. Within a matter of weeks of launching his bid in April, Pritzker added $14 million into his account and began releasing TV ads. And Rauner had already aired ads even before that.
The candidates have started a money war. Even Republicans’ jaws are dropping at the sheer numbers of the campaigns.
“In my 25 years of doing this professionally, I haven’t seen the kind of war chest of this size as early and as massively as we’re seeing in Illinois,” said Phil Musser, a former Republican Governors Association executive director, according to Politico. He even described the level of expected Illinois spending as historic.
In this blue state, Republicans believe the only way to defeat Democrats is to outspend them.
“We can’t compete unless if we have superior firepower there,” said Brad Todd, a GOP strategist and veteran of gubernatorial races.
Both candidates are expected to clog TV and radio airwaves in the coming months. Due to the mass amounts of money being spent, the candidates need innovative and unique ways to stand out from the crowd. And in this case, money is not an object.
For the time being, Illinois can rely on seeing mostly positive ads before the impending wave of negative attacks Americans have come to tolerate.