While Democrats across the country may not have gotten the blue wave they hoped for, Illinoisans colored the state lines a darker blue, handing several key positions to the party on election night.
Billionaire J.B. Pritzker handily defeated incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner, who conceded the race as attendees were still streaming into Pritzker’s election night party at the Marriott Marquis in the South Loop.
“Voting is an act of optimism that the levers of our democracy still work. You embody that optimism,” Pritkzer told supporters. “You light the beacon fire on the hill of history that signals from one generation to another that these are the things we stand and fight for. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your faith in Juliana (Stratton) and me.”
The 2018 Illinois gubernatorial race was one of the most expensive in American history, with Pritzker and Rauner raising more than $282 million combined, spending more than $230 million. Pritzker, who’s worth more than $3 billion, self-funded his campaign with more than $170 million, and Rauner, who’s worth more than half a billion dollars, poured more than $57 million into his coffers this election cycle.
Despite Pritzker using his incredible wealth to defeat another politician with incredible wealth, he tried to acknowledge Illinoisans in marginalized communities with his speech while giving supporters a message of hope after four years of Rauner, which were marked by a devastating budget crisis that hit social services the hardest.
“In Illinois we have a history of building ourselves up from broken places, and the bonds we form in the process become the steel girders that hold us all together,” said Pritzker. “I see those bonds in communities all across the state of Illinois. Communities touched by both triumph and tragedy.”
Even though the race was a bitter contest, Pritzker gave Rauner a nod.
“Earlier this evening I received a call from governor Bruce Rauner and I want to thank him for his service to this state over the last four years and I wish him and his family well,” he said.
Across the Loop at the Drake Hotel, Rauner told his supporters that despite his loss, it was a “time to come together” with Democrats.
“Let us work together. Let us find common ground. Let us listen to each other, respect each other,” said Rauner. “Let’s study what other states have done to move themselves forward. Let’s realize that many states have made the exact changes that we need to make in Illinois.”
Democrats in Illinois also picked up other key gains across the state, including flipping two seats in the House of Representatives.
Sean Casten defeated six-term incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District, 53 percent to 47 percent, while Lauren Underwood beat Randy Hultgren 52 percent to 48 percent in the 14th becoming the first African American woman to represent that District. Meanwhile, state Sen. Kwame Raoul won the race for Attorney General, garnering about 64 percent of the vote. Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia easily cruised to his win to replace 4th District Congressman Luis Gutierrez, grabbing more than 86 percent of the vote. Meanwhile in the 3rd District, incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski handily defeated an actual nazi running on the Republican ticket, 73.5 percent to 26.5 percent.
Progressive community groups and unions celebrated the early Pritzker victory along with other gains Tuesday night.
“We’re ready for the change Governor-elect Pritzker’s campaign promised,” said Hannah Gelder of Fair Economy Illinois. “We need a Fair Tax as soon as possible, but Democrats don’t have to wait until 2020 to raise revenue that will repair Illinois’ budget. The governor and Democratic legislators can make a down payment on Pritzker’s campaign promise to raise revenue by raising half a billion dollars through the closure of corporate tax loopholes.”
“In Pritzker, voters have elected a governor who will bring people together, not tear them apart,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery. “One who will fight to amplify the voice of working people, not silence it. And one who will work to lift up every Illinoisan, not just the 1 percent.”
“If the past two years in Trump’s America have taught us anything, it’s that the corporate elite and political ruling class won’t save working people and people of color from violent white supremacists,” said Emma Tai, Executive Director of United Working Families. “In fact, they’re more likely to collude with them to pass tax cuts for the rich and slash public spending on schools and healthcare…UWF congratulates our members and endorsed candidates on their victories tonight.”