Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan raises $11 million before kicking off GOP challenge to Pritzker

By Sun-Times Staff Report
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference last year. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Just 24 hours before he plans to kick off a Republican challenge to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a West Coast venture capitalist from downstate Illinois reported Wednesday raising nearly $11 million in contributions from seven out-of-state donors.

Jesse Sullivan, founder of Alter Global in San Francisco, is planning to announce “his intentions regarding the Republican race for Illinois Governor” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in his hometown of downstate Petersburg, according to a news release from “Sullivan for Illinois.”

At 4:29 p.m. Wednesday, the 37-year-old reported taking in $10,780,000 in donations — all but $780,000 of it from just four California contributors — since last Friday.

The sudden influx of cash was first reported by the political blog Capitol Fax.

“Dude isn’t messing around,” blogger Rich Miller commented.

The largest donation was $5 million from Chris Larsen, billionaire co-founder and board chairman of San Francisco-based global financial firm Ripple, according to Sullivan’s campaign filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Larsen has a net worth of $3.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Another $4 million came from Kevin Taweel, CEO of Asurion, in San Mateo, California, described on the company website as “the world’s largest provider of technology protection services.”

Sullivan has declined Sun-Times’ requests for an interview this week.

But his campaign put out a news release Wednesday afternoon, saying “Sullivan, who was born and raised in Petersburg, will make a major announcement on his intentions regarding the Republican race for Illinois Governor” Thursday at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site Visitor’s Center in Petersburg.

Sullivan created a campaign fund last month to “support the candidate, Jesse W. Sullivan, in the 2022 primary and 2022 general election for Governor of Illinois.”

According to his firm’s website, Sullivan “founded Alter with a desire to bring together two radically different worlds: Silicon Valley, which is the tip-of-the-spear in creating the future innovation economy, and emerging markets, where opportunity abounds, yet billions still live in poverty.”

“Jesse previously led a counterinsurgency team in the deadliest district of Afghanistan, where he advised US Military and NATO strategy,” according to his company bio. “After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he advised the Haitian Ambassador and for the largest refugee camp.”

Sullivan believes “while charity and military solutions are necessary momentary” answers, “the only lasting solution is to create millions of jobs,” according to his bio. “We need compassion with real results.”

The potential candidacy is expected to jolt the Republican race for governor.

Suburban businessman Gary Rabine, left, in March; State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, center; former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, right.

Candidates already running include state Sen. Darren Bailey of downstate Xenia, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of downstate Waterloo and businessman Gary Rabine of northwest suburban Bull Valley. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of downstate Taylorville and Regional Transportation Chairman Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale are also weighing entering the race.

Pritzker has already seeded his re-election campaign with $35 million. The billionaire Democrat spent $171 million of his own fortune on his 2018 bid to oust then Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a battle that went down as one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in American history.

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