Illinois primary election results pit downstate Sen. Darren Bailey against Gov. JB Pritzker

CHICAGO (WLS) — After Tuesday’s primary election, ABC News projects downstate Sen. Darren Bailey has won the Republican nomination for Illinois governor, pitting him against Gov. JB Pritzker in November.

PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS: Latest updates on races around the state of Illinois

Bailey has been perceived as more conservative than many of the other Republican challengers in the state, ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington said; he may in fact be the most conservative challenger to Pritzker.

But Washington noted that Bailey built a strong grassroots following especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was outspoken against lockdown, mask mandates and remote schooling. He sued Pritzker over a stay-at-home order the governor issued, and was escorted off the floor of the Legislature for refusing to wear a mask.

Taking the stage at his victory party, Bailey criticized “elites” like Pritzker, the GOP establishment and others who say he cannot win in November. He pledged to outwork his opponent and stand up for regular, working people across Illinois.

“Here’s a tip and some advice for JB Pritzker: Start packing, friend. Because, on November eighth, you’re fired,” he said. “Illinois is a lot worse off than it was four years ago, it’s a lot worse off than it was 40 years ago and it’s time for something different.”

Bailey spoke with ABC7 Chicago in downstate Effingham Wednesday morning.

Coming off a stunning primary victory, Bailey is pausing to catch his breath for just a moment before shifting into gear again with the focus now on Pritzker and the November election.

“It just feels good when you get to take a look at the labors of your hard work, and see this to, you know, things paid off, so better at the end of the day. It’s just another day we move forward. The mission is the same. The goals are the same, and we keep going,” he said.

Jobs and crime will be his top issues.

But so will the endorsement he received from former President Donald Trump, which Pritzker will use to attack Bailey in this state, where Democrats far outnumber Republicans.

The race is shaping up as a classic David versus Goliath battle, with Bailey saying he’s not concerned about naysayers in his own party.

“I simply say, ‘what do we got to lose?’ We’ve had the naysayers; they said that there’s no way that I could win the primary, and they got behind someone and wasted millions of dollars, and when we knew all along that the people of Illinois were thinking differently. So, I think it’s going to be pretty amazing what’s going to happen,” he said.

Bailey will be hitting the campaign trail in the next day or so, with plans to march in some July 4 parades.

Irvin, the one-time frontrunner whose campaign was torpedoed by $35 million in negative ads run against him by Pritzker and his allies, struck a triumphant note with supporters even after losing the nomination. He did not mention Bailey in his speech but instead spoke about the future of Illinois and Pritzker.

“Listen, I hope this governor is wrong in his assessment that he can easily defeat the opponent he paid tens of millions of dollars to face. But, if this governor is correct, and if he does easily prevail, we as citizens must rise up ,” Irvin said.

Irvin had the backing of the richest man in the state, Ken Griffin, who helped get Bruce Rauner elected governor. Griffin poured $50 million into the Irvin campaign, with $30 million spent on TV and radio ads, but it didn’t quite move the needle.

“Pritzker stopped us from winning tonight, but he couldn’t stop us from changing so many hearts and minds across the state,” Irvin said.

Sullivan also addressed supporters after losing his bid for the nomination Tuesday, thanking them and his family for their support.

The young father and venture capitalist based his entire campaign around family values, his Christian faith, and military service.

He leaned heavily on moral issues, coming out staunchly against abortion and often talked about how politicians and government had no place in classrooms or controlling school curricula.

Sullivan saw a last minute surge with the decision by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and he leaned heavily into that momentum, trying to pick up Republican votes in the Chicago area.

The venture capitalist turned first-time candidate is popular in his hometown of farmers and state workers just north of Springfield.

Having lost his bid, he threw his full support behind Bailey, and encouraged all his voters to do the same.

Bailey has also dismissed the notion that Pritzker’s campaign against Irvin is the reason he’s on the verge of victory.

“Let them say what they want to say; there is no doubt about it. It’s our hard work ethic. It’s our campaign’s work ethic, the people that have had the, you know, come around the table to work with us,” he said.

Train Gov. Jim Edgar is worried about the down-ballot impact of a Bailey primary victory.

“We would have the most right-wing slate we’ve ever had going into the general election in Illinois, and I don’t think that’s good for the Republican Party in Illinois,” Edgar said. “Not only do I think they have difficulty winning, I think they can have a drag on the people down the nerd.”

During his victory speech, Pritzker blasted Bailey.

“Let me be clear, someone who seeks out and accepts the endorsement of a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic former president does not deserve to come anywhere near this state’s highest office,” he said.

The governor said voters will have an easy choice come November.

The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, removing the constitutional right to abortion will be front and center in Pritzker’s campaign.

He has said Bailey is too extreme for Illinois. He also confirmed Wednesday he is not considering a presidential run, saying he looks forward to four more years of leading Illinois.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also responded to Bailey’s win on Twitter, saying “Illinois, under no circumstance can we allow Darren Bailey anywhere near executive office. To protect women, our diverse communities and our sanity – Vote @JBPritzker in November.”

Three other contenders vying for the Republican nomination were Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf and Max Solomon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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