Greising: Griffin Backing Aurora Mayor Irvin, Starts with $20 Million

Challenge to Pritzker Re-Election Focuses on Crime, State Finances

Michael Milken and Ken Griffin participate in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

Ken Griffin, the state’s wealthiest person and prime mover behind Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s biggest policy defeat to date, has made his decision: He will back Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s bid to defeat Pritzker’s re-election, beginning with a $20 million campaign contribution Monday.

Griffin’s move firmly establishes Irvin as the fundraising frontrunner in a crowded Republican primary field. It also renews a political rivalry between Pritzker and Griffin that some have called “The Battle of the Billionaires.”

“I’m going to get behind Richard Irvin, the mayor of Aurora. He’s an incredible leader, has a strong track record as mayor of Aurora, and really epitomizes the American dream. I believe he has the talent, the drive and the caring that we need to turn Illinois around,” Griffin said in an interview.

In selecting Irvin, Griffin first interviewed what he described as “a handful” of Republican candidates for governor. He said there was no polling data to speak of, since as a group they have little name recognition. Background research was done.

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