Tom Kacich: Pritzker replenishes his campaign fund

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Oct. 16—Gov. J.B. Pritzker deposited another $12 million into his J.B. for Governor campaign fund earlier this month, his first personal cash infusion into the account since he won election to another term last November over Republican Darren Bailey.

Pritzker has put $335.55 million into his own campaign fund since March 2017, close to four times the amount that Bruce Rauner, his predecessor who briefly was the state's top self-funding candidate, spent on his gubernatorial campaigns in 2014 and 2018.

There's plenty more Pritzker money available, according to Forbes, which recently placed the governor's net worth at $3.4 billion.

Whether Pritzker has the interest in running for a third term in 2026 is another question. He would be just 61 years old, which would make him a comparative teenager by current American presidential politics standards. Pritzker also has interest in the presidency, a point underscored earlier this year when he made himself available for a profile, complete with multiple photos, in The New York Times.

It was in that profile that Pritzker signaled that he intends to take a more substantial role in national politics, and not just by writing checks.

"I intend to be impactful in the 2024 elections, helping Democrats run for Congress, helping Democrats run for United States Senate, and helping Joe Biden win re-election," he said. "But that doesn't mean that you sit back and write a check to the (Democratic National Committee) and say, 'Hope you get it right. Good luck. Have fun storming the castle.'"

So far this year, he's given more than $130,000 to the Biden re-election fund and lesser amounts to the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee, the Kentucky State Democratic Party and two Democratic members of Congress from Illinois, Nikki Budzinski and Lauren Underwood.

More importantly, Pritzker was able to persuade the Democratic National Committee to hold its 2024 nominating convention in his hometown of Chicago. He undoubtedly will have prominent and public roles there that could be helpful in a 2028 run for the presidency. By then, he might be in his 10th year as governor of Illinois but still only 63 years old, 14 years younger than Joe Biden was when he was first elected president.

Marron money

State Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, who announced in July that he would not seek election to another term in the Illinois House, has already shut down his campaign fund.

Marron, who was elected to the House in 2018 and won re-election in 2020 and 2022, had about $4,500 in his campaign account July 1 but has since spent about $1,000 on mundane items such as office insurance, club dues and compliance accounting. He gave the rest of his campaign funds, almost $3,000, to the House Republican Organization.

Marron has more than a year remaining on his legislative term.

Champaign County GOP

Most people are familiar with the story of the recent hard times of the Champaign County Republican Party, starting with the GOP losing control of the county board in 2000 and culminating with the disastrous 2018 election when Democrats won every countywide seat on the ballot, including sheriff, county clerk and county executive.

Right now, Republicans hold one countywide office (coroner) and are outnumbered on the county board, 16-6.

A recently filed campaign disclosure report shows the party is in tough shape financially as well. For the first time in recent memory, the Champaign County Republican Central Committee reported less than $10,000 on hand.

As of Sept. 30, its fund balance was $9,767. As recently as June 30, 2012, the party had $113,718 on hand.

The local Republican Party had been competitive until 2016 when, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, voters began leaving the party. That process played out financially as well.

On June 30, 2016, the party had $32,376 on hand. That number dropped to $18,298 a year later, recovered to $31,757 on June 30, 2018, but dropped to $13,690 in 2019.

On June 30, 2023, the local Republican Party had $15,076 on hand. Champaign County Democrats reported $16,428 on hand on that date, plus another $44,367 in investments for a total of nearly $61,000.