In the days after the primary election, incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker continued campaigning, even though the general election is more than seven months away.
But how much time and attention they will give to the metro east, Southern Illinois and the rest of downstate remains to be seen.
Pritzker did well in most counties outside the Chicago-area as he ended up winning 98 out of 102 counties, including 76.2 percent of the vote in St. Clair County and 59.6 percent in Madison County.
“I’ve been in the metro-east quite a lot,” said Pritzker, who estimates he’s visited the metro-east about a dozen times. “It’s been a very, very important area for me. I’ve developed a lot of good relationships. I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time in the metro-east and of course throughout Southern Illinois during the general election."
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Pritzker had been thinking ahead to the general election during the primary campaign. He crisscrossed the state and has opened field offices across the state.
He added he isn't sure how he would divide his time between the Chicago area and the rest of the state ahead of November's election.
"It’s hard to tell right now. As you saw during the primary, I spent a great deal of time traveling the state and the effort to do that, and build up infrastructure in those 96 other counties in the state, is evident in the voter turnout we got," Pritzker said. "In the high voter turnout environment, we did even better than most people expected. I’m going to continue to work that and make sure we’re bringing out voters in the metro-east and throughout Southern Illinois."
In the days after the primary, Rauner toured the state, including a stop in St. Clair County.
Rauner said he plans to be all over the state during the campaign for the general election season.
"I’ll be in every county, I work for everyone in every community throughout the state," Rauner said. "I’ll be in all 102 counties. I’m proud to live in Springfield; that’s the state capital. I’m proud to fight against the Chicago machine; Chicago is too dominant in the state of Illinois. The corruption in Chicago is bleeding into the rest of the state. We have to stand against it. We’ve got to beat Pritzker and Madigan, and I’ll be here in Southern Illinois all the time."
Rauner, the first-term governor, has a lot to work to do in terms of uniting conservatives and the Republican party. He won the Republican primary, but with only 51.4 percent of the vote. His primary challenger, Wheaton state Rep. Jeanne Ives, picked up 48.6 percent of the vote and won many Southern Illinois counties, as well as most of the Chicago area's collar counties.
"The way to unite is to focus on what we agree on and the critical priorities. That’s the way to win and unite everyone," Rauner said. "Everyone needs property taxes down, No. 1, and everyone needs good-paying jobs in the state. We need higher family incomes," he said. "Everyone could agree we should have term limits on our politicians to end the corruption. Those are the things I’m fighting for and that will bring everyone together. Not only Republicans, but independent voters and reform-minded Democrats as well."
Kent Redfield, a longtime observer of Illinois politics and a professor emeritus of the University of Illinois Springfield, said about 37 percent of the vote in 2014 came from Chicago and suburban Cook County, 25 percent came from the collar counties and 38 percent came from downstate Illinois.
Redfield said candidates probably won’t spend half of their time downstate, but their visits may be proportional to the percentage of the vote.
"The physical presence in terms of going downstate, meeting with editorial boards, doing community events — if the narrative is going is going to be governor of the whole state, you have to spend time downstate," Redfield said.
However, there is no magic number.
"It’s a matter of establishing a presence organizationally through party organizations or field offices and reinforcing that with a presence that shows you can speak to downstate agriculture or downstate manufacturing," Redfield said.