Political campaigns

Traditional Labor Day kickoff to fall political campaigns is now ‘obsolete,’ says SIU professor

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July 26, 2022

Traditional Labor Day kickoff to fall political campaigns is now ‘obsolete,’ says SIU professor

by Pete Rosenbery

John-Jackson-sm.jpgCARBONDALE, Ill. — The tradition of Labor Day kicking off the November general election is now “obsolete,” according to John Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The need for Illinois to wait for 2020 census data to draw legislative districts prompted the move from the traditional March primary to June 28. Jackson noted that the general election campaign actually began during the primary season in the gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat JB Pritzker and the Republican nominee, State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, “the two s’ regularly attacking in TV commercials and on social media“.

And with the fall campaign already underway, Jackson expects the number and volume of paid media advertising “may decline a bit over the next month,” but will ramp up once more so in the run-up to the November 8 general election.

No move towards politics

The late state primary leaves little room for candidates to alter their core message or image now, Jackson said.

Pritzker, Jackson said, will be operating on his record and has “an image and a record to uphold, and those are pretty much fixed.”

Bailey, meanwhile, also established his image and standings with the media and the Republican base that elected him following a six-candidate primary.

“Neither will let him move to the middle, which is the typical tactical move after the primary, especially if you ran to the extreme end of the political range like Bailey did,” Jackson said. “He can tweak some of his messaging a bit, like say less harsh things about Chicago, but not move in the middle.”

Popular political funding is declining

Jackson said grassroots funding by political party organizations has declined significantly in Illinois since 2014, when Gov. Bruce Rauner self-funded his campaign and the Republican Party over the next several years.

Pritzker matched Rauner in the 2018 campaign and continues to generously self-fund his campaign this year, Jackson said, noting that the 2022 gubernatorial race has been called “the battle of the billionaires.”

He noted that hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin poured more than $50 million into Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Republican gubernatorial bid and that conservative businessman Richard Uihlein largely funded Bailey’s primary campaign. Jackson said the only question is whether Uihlein will continue to fund Bailey’s campaign this fall and whether other wealthy donors will come forward.

“Bailey will get some grassroots Republican support, but that probably won’t be the primary source of his funding, just as it wasn’t in the primary,” he said.