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Eight Republicans file to run for Illinois governor and Pritzker draws a Democratic primary challenger

State Capitol in Springfield

CHICAGO – The Republican and Democratic fields for Illinois governor for June’s primary began to take shape Monday with the passage of a deadline for candidates to submit paperwork to secure the state’s top elected job.

Downstate venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan and two others were the last of eight Republican gubernatorial hopefuls to file for the June 28 ballot, while Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker picked up a challenge from West Side nurse Beverly Miles, who finished last in a four-way election in 2019 for 28th Ward alderman.

“You got these political operatives and insiders who have owned this system and process for far too long. We want to come in here, the last day, and get to represent outsiders in our government again,” Sullivan told reporters outside the State Board of Elections offices in Springfield, where he presented more than 10,000 signatures. “We’re just really happy to do that.”

Candidates for statewide office had to secure 3,250 signatures of registered voters in order to qualify for a place on the primary ballot.

Sullivan joins a list of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls that also includes state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia; Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin; Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine; former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo; and Emily Johnson, a political neophyte from Wheaton.

Also filing Monday were Republicans Keisha Smith, of Country Club Hills, and Max Solomon, of Hazel Crest.

The stage is set for a high-stakes battle to challenge Illinois’ billionaire governor, with billionaire hedge fund owner Kenneth Griffin pledging to use his fortune to defeat Pritzker. Griffin has endorsed Irvin and, so far, invested $20 million in his campaign.

By far, among Republicans, Irvin has the biggest political piggy bank on that one Griffin donation alone. As of December, state election reports show Sullivan had the second-largest campaign account at more than $9 million.

Bailey reported more than $700,000 at year’s end and an additional $1 million contribution from Lake Forest shipping magnate Dick Uihlein last month. Rabine, meanwhile, put $1 million of his own money into his campaign earlier this month, campaign records show.

And Schimpf reported a campaign warchest of less than $81,000 at the end of 2021, state records show.

Johnson, who doesn’t appear to have established a campaign fund, heads a slate of candidates for a group dubbing itself We Are The People Illinois! that embraces discredited election fraud conspiracies.

The group’s website says the organization includes more than 200 supporters “who have come together to investigate the fraud in the 2020 Election.”

The secretary of state candidate on that ticket, who filed her nominating petitions with the state last week, is former Chicago police officer Michelle Turney, who advocates for the sale of “all voting machines.”

Her Facebook profile shows her attendance at the Washington, D.C. rally that former President Trump headlined before the attempted Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

It’s not clear whether Turney, Johnson or others on their slate ultimately will wind up on the primary ballot. The deadline for petition challenges is next Monday, and the State Board of Elections is scheduled to certify candidates for the primary on April 21.

Monday’s filing deadline also delivered another potential GOP opponent to Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is seeking a second term this fall.

Downstate Republican lawyer Thomas DeVore, who has been the legal driving force against school mask mandates in Illinois and other Pritzker pandemic-related executive orders, became the third Republican to file for state government’s top law enforcement position.

The other two are former attorney general and lieutenant governor candidate Steve Kim and David Shestokas, a member of former President Donald Trump’s legal team that sought to overturn 2020 presidential election results in Pennsylvania.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.

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