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6 Republicans vie to unseat Pritzker

The Republican candidates for governor are pictured in Capitol News Illinois file photos. From left to right, they are Richard Irvin, Darren Bailey, Jesse Sullivan, Paul Schimpf and Gary Rabine. Not pictured is Max Solomon.

SPRINGFIELD – Republican voters in Illinois will choose from six candidates to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker in the upcoming June 28 primary.

The field includes a conservative farmer and state lawmakers who is the recent polling frontrunner, the mayor of Illinois’ second largest city, a former state senator and three political newcomers.

Darren Bailey, 56, is a conservative state senator from Xenia, a small town in southern Illinois about 40 miles northeast of Mt. Vernon, where he owns and operates a farm.

Bailey was first elected to the Illinois House in 2018 and served one term before deciding to run for an open Senate seat that was vacated by the retirement of former Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. Not including ceremonial resolutions, Bailey has been the chief sponsor of just two bills that successfully became law in his time in office, one doubling the fines for passing a school bus and another amending requirements for becoming a firefighter.

In 2019, while still in the House, he joined a group of six other Republicans in cosponsoring a resolution, which never received a vote, that would have urged Congress to make the city of Chicago a separate state. He’s since referred to the resolution as a “warning shot” meant to show his displeasure with the policies in Chicago, and he said he no longer favors separating the city from the state.

During one debate in this year’s gubernatorial race, Bailey repeated his criticism of Chicago, referring to it as a “crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole.”

He is perhaps best known for filing lawsuits challenging Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation orders. His attorney through that litigation was Thomas DeVore, who is now a Republican candidate for attorney general. The pair achieved brief success in a Clay County circuit court before a Sangamon County appellate court overruled the decision that would have freed Bailey from the orders.

In May 2020, his colleagues voted to remove him from the House chamber for refusing to wear a mask in compliance with COVID-19 mitigations. The House vote was 81-27 in favor of removing him from the remainder of the day’s proceedings.

On the campaign trail, Bailey has stressed his opposition to abortion, his support for Second Amendment gun rights, his conservative approach to taxes and spending, and his strong support for law enforcement and cracking down on crime.

Opponents, however, have pointed to his frequent votes to raise property taxes while he served 17 years on a Clay County school board.

He planned to attend a weekend rally in which former President Donald Trump will be in Quincy to endorse Congresswoman Mary Miller in her 15th District primary, and he’s been courting Trump’s endorsement for months. It was unclear Friday whether the former president would give it to him, however.

His largest financial backer, Richard Uihlein who founded the shipping supply company Uline, has given Bailey more than $9 million and spent another $8 million with political action committees that have attacked Bailey’s opponents.

Bailey’s running mate is Stephanie Trussell, a former radio talk show host from Chicago.

Richard Irvin currently serves as Mayor of Aurora, Illinois’ second-largest city, where he was first elected in 2017. He was reelected in 2021.

Irvin, 52, had previously run for that office twice before, in 2003 and 2009, losing both times. But in 2007, he was elected alderman at-large on the Aurora City Council, the first Black candidate to hold the post.

Irvin enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduating high school and served in the Gulf War. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Robert Morris College in Chicago and a law degree from Northern Illinois University.

After law school, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Cook County. He has also worked in private practice.

In his bid for governor, Irvin is part of a “slate” of candidates endorsed by billionaire businessman Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge fund company Citadel, who has contributed $50 million to Irvin’s campaign. Griffin, Illinois’ most prominent conservative political donor, told employees this week that he was planning to move Citadel’s corporate headquarters to Miami.

Irvin’s campaign so far has focused largely on crime. He has been harshly critical of Pritzker for signing a criminal justice reform bill, known as the SAFE-T Act, which, among other things, will eliminate the use of cash bail starting next year. He has also criticized actions of the Prisoner Review Board under the Pritzker administration as well as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

He has also touted his conservative approach to taxes and spending, as well as his support for ethics reform in state government and his criticism of the so-called “Madigan machine.”

The early polling frontrunner who has since faltered, Irvin has more recently faced a barrage of criticisms from Democrats and Republicans alike. The Democratic Governors Association has spent millions on attack ads against him, as has a political action committee tied to Uihlein.

His latest response to the Democratic money being spent in the GOP primary is that Gov. JB Pritzker is trying to trick voters into giving him an easier primary opponent, repeating several times that “a vote for Darren Bailey is a vote for JB Pritzker.”

On abortion, Irvin has called himself “pro-life,” with exception for rape, incest and life of the mother. He also said he would look to reinstate parental notice of abortion requirements.

His running mate is state Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican from Morrisonville, one of the most outspoken opponents of abortion in the General Assembly.

Jesse Sullivan is a political newcomer in Illinois. He is the founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Alter Global. He now lives in Petersburg, a small town in Menard County that is about 25 miles north of Springfield.

His campaign has tried to push the narrative that he’s surging in recent weeks, rolling out endorsements such as state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, who had previously backed Irvin.

Sullivan has campaigned primarily as a religious conservative who supports a plan called “universal school choice,” which would offer parents “backpack scholarships” to send their children to any school they choose, whether it be public, private, religious or charter.

He said when a leaked draft of the supreme court decision overturing the landmark Roe v. Wade was published, he dropped to his knees and prayed.

He also says he wants to ban political contributions from teachers unions, limit the kinds of materials that can be used in sex education and forbid instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3. That’s part of his “Power to the Parents” agenda which has been the backbone of his late push for publicity in an effort to gain ground in the race.  

Many of the problems facing society, he has said, stem from a lack of “faith and fatherhood.” 

His running mate is Kathleen Murphy, a former communications director for Jeanne Ives, the former state representative who unsuccessfully challenged then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 GOP primary.

Paul Schimpf is a former state senator from Waterloo, in Monroe County, about 30 miles south of St. Louis. He was elected in 2016 and served in the state Senate for four years.

Born at Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East area, Schimpf, 51, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps from 1993 to 2013. While in the Marine Corps, he earned a law degree from Southern Illinois University and served for a time as a judge advocate, or military attorney.

In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq and served as the chief American advisor to prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein.

In 2014, Schimpf ran unsuccessfully for attorney general, losing to incumbent Democrat Lisa Madigan. Two years later, he ran successfully for the state Senate, defeating former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.

On his campaign website, Schimpf primarily touts his promise to fight political corruption in state government, criticizing Pritzker for not standing up to former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was indicted earlier this year on corruption charges.

Receiving the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune, Schimpf has talked about empowering local school boards and making homeschooling and private schooling more accessible as part of his “Parents Bill of Rights” platform.

His running mate is McHenry County Board member Carolyn Schofield.

Gary Rabine is the founder and owner of the Rabine Group, a network of companies that specialize in paving, roofing and other kinds of exterior work.

His pitch has been that his business experience makes him the candidate to “turn around” Illinois, and, along with Sullivan, he has pushed for creating an option in state law to allow Chicagoans and Cook County residents to recall State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Rabine has touted unspecified pension reform as a remedy for high property taxes, which are levied by local governments and not the state, noting he’d like to “crush” them to the national average.

His running mate is Palatine Township Highway Commissioner Aaron Del Mar.

Max Solomon is a Hazel Crest attorney and immigrant from Nigeria who has taken some of the most conservative stances in the GOP field, such as saying he would call in the National Guard to Chicago “yesterday,” that he believes “life begins before we were formed,” and he does not believe Joe Biden was rightfully elected president in 2020.

He hasn’t reported much fundraising, with his last two disclosures including loans from American Express and Capitol One amounting to $7,500.

His running mate is Latasha Fields, a Chicago resident who is active in a number of home schooling and parental rights organizations.

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Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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