A first-time candidate and wealthy businessman, Andrzejewski actively recruited tea partier support back in April. He spoke at a Tax Day Tea Party back then and, as he told Politico this week, his speech was the start of a beautiful friendship.
"I spoke for 15 minutes at that rally and that gave my campaign early momentum," he told the website. "I recruited precinct committeemen, built my emails list and signed up donors and that gave my campaign a tremendous boost."
Andrzejewski offered conservatives a policy platform the tea party message boards could love. He's hammered state corruption, accusing both parties of allowing it to infiltrate the state government. He promises to fight corrupt contracting practices by "opening up the books" on state government spending through a website. And he's suggested ending the system of distributing tax revenue collected by the state to local governments across Illinois (a plan that has made local officials uneasy.) The conservative fiscal advocacy group National Taxpayers United endorsed him after he signed a pledge to oppose "and and all tax increases."
Today, tea partiers count Andrzejewski as their man in the primary, a crowded field candidates which final public polls showed is led by former Illinois GOP chair Andy McKenna. But McKenna had less than 20% support in polling, with the rest of the candidates pulling around 10% support. Last week, Andrzejewski released an internal poll he said put him within 2% of McKenna. Conservatives say that number reflects the true story of the race.
On Friday, former Polish president Lech Walesa endorsed Andrzejewski, claiming that Andrzejewski's outsider campaign was similar to the Solidarity Movement Walesa is known for. In a state with a large Polish population, conservatives have said the Walesa backing carries a lot of weight.
Early turnout figures from today should give his supporters more cause to be excited. The Chicago Tribune reports "very low turnout" in today's elections so far, the kind of news that's usually good for insurgent candidates with a motivated base like Andrzejewski. While most stay home, Andrzejewski can probably count on his voters to turn out.
Andrzejewski's national conservative stock has risen since the endorsement, with major voices in the conservative movement singing his praises in the past several days. In the American Spectator, his tea party-backed campaign was likened to "George Washington's ill-equipped colonial soldiers outnumbered by the professional troops of the British Empire."
At the National Review, speculation has begun that Andrzejewski might not simply win the primary, but could have a shot at taking the whole race. The Democratic candidates have been locked in a vicious primary fight, and the election will be the first since Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) was thrown out of office. The magazine reports that the political climate is ripe for a conservative win. "Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts -- could Obama's Illinois be next?" the magazine asks.
Illinois tea partiers are excited, too. "I think we'll get a tea party candidate elected to the governorship," Chicago-area Tea Party organizer Ralph Sprovier told TPMDC. Sprovier went on to praise Andrzejewski.
As for the candidate himself, Andrzejewski says an upset win is coming, not just tonight but in November as well. "I think the parallel . . . is that Republicans are winning in Democratic strongholds by healthy margins," Andrzejewski told the National Review when asked to compare his race and the recent string of GOP victories including Massachusetts. "I expect the same in November when I'm our nominee."
(Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni)