(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Ken Griffin said in November he was “all in” to unseat Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker and contributed $50 million toward that effort. Yet the Republican candidate he’s backing isn’t favored to win Tuesday’s primary.
Griffin’s pick, Richard Irvin -- the mayor of the second-largest city in Illinois -- has been slipping in local polls against state Senator Darren Bailey, a downstate conservative endorsed by former President Donald Trump. In one of the latest polls late last week by Ogden & Fry, 37.6% of respondents said they would support Bailey in the Republican primary, compared with 12.7% for Irvin.
Griffin -- the richest man in Illinois, with a net worth of more than $28 billion -- is regularly a top donor to Republican candidates nationally, but has had an outsized impact in Illinois over the last two decades. While he announced on June 23 that his hedge fund Citadel will be moving its headquarters to Florida, Griffin’s investment in Illinois will likely not be his last even if Irvin loses.
“Obviously, that’s not his preferred choice, so it would be a disappointment,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for OpenSecrets, an independent nonprofit group that tracks money in US politics. But “I think though such investments often have other attributes and lingering effects. For instance, maybe his support puts Irvin in a good place for a future run for office. You never know what the ripple effects can be of such a big investment.”
Zia Ahmed, Griffin’s spokesman, said the billionaire will support only Irvin in this election.
Griffin, who founded Citadel in Chicago more than three decades ago, recently moved to Miami and said he expects a few hundred people from his firm to be based there next year. The move comes after he voiced concerns about crime, fiscal management and political leadership in Illinois throughout the pandemic.
See also: Griffin’s Citadel Move Is ‘Punch in the Gut’ for Chicago
Since 2002, he’s contributed more than $174 million to candidates and causes in Illinois, with $100 million of that since 2020, according to campaign-finance records.
One of his biggest victories came when he helped defeat a ballot measure backed by Pritzker in November 2020 that would have increased taxes on higher income residents and boosted tax collections by billions in Illinois, the state with the lowest credit rating. He gave more than $50 million to defeat the measure.
Griffin also has donated to campaigns in several states across the country, including Pennsylvania and Florida, where he grew up. He’s also contributed to local Illinois candidates including former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat.
“With significant operations still in Chicago, I would imagine that Griffin will continue to pay close attention, if not continue at the same level of engagement,” Krumholz said.
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