Almost no one in Illinois had more resources to devote to running for governor than J.B. Pritzker. At 53, Pritzker is the billionaire scion of the state’s wealthiest family. His sister, Penny, served as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary. The family name adorns the University of Chicago’s medical school, Northwestern University’s law school and the gleaming, Frank Gehry-designed band shell in Chicago’s Millennium Park, not to mention the country’s most prestigious prize for architecture. Four of the dozen richest Illinoisans are Pritzkers, according to Forbes. J.B. Pritzker’s share of the family fortune is estimated at $3.2 billion.
And yet when Pritzker started considering whether to challenge Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in the aftermath of the 2016 election, he asked himself not only the questions that most would-be candidates do — Could he win? How would running affect his wife and children? His business? — but also a question most candidates never consider: Was it even possible to fix the state he’d lead?