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Rep. Darren Bailey Discusses Suit Against Gov. Pritzker

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St. Rep. Darren Bailey, speaking at a Restore Illinois rally at Champaign County GOP headquarters in Champaign, Oct. 24.

State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) says he will continue his court battle against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s use of emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A transcript of an interview with Bailey is at the end of this article. Audio of the interview is here.

Last week, a Sangamon County judge denied the governor’s request to vacate a ruling against him by a Clay County judge. Bailey, a Clay County Republican who represents the 109th Illinois House District, claims in his lawsuit that Pritzker’s emergency powers regarding COVID-19 have expired, and the General Assembly should step in.

Rep. Bailey spoke about his lawsuit against Gov. Pritzker at an Oct. 24 Restore Illinois rally that drew about 45 people to the temporary headquarters of the Champaign County Republicans in the former Hooters restaurant in Champaign. Seating at the event was arranged for social distancing, but few in attendance wore masks.

Bailey formed the Restore Illinois PAC with other conservatives in east central Illinois. The political action committee predates Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan for reopening the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other speakers at the rally included state representatives Chris Miller, Brad Halbrook, Dan Caulkins , Blaine Wilhour and Republican congressional candidate Mary Miller.

Rep. Miller, a Coles County farmer who opened the rally, argued for the reelection of Donald Trump as president. He said Republican “Never-Trumpers” should realize there is more at stake in the election than their disagreements about Trump’s personality.

“Old Glory is on the ballot. Christianity is on the ballot,” said Miller. “Border security is on the ballot. The American dream is on the ballot. This very constitutional representative republic is on the ballot!”

Other speakers attacked the proposed amendment for a graduated state income tax, which is supported by Gov. Pritzker. State Rep. Dan Caulkins of Decatur warned that if voters approve the amendment, it would make it easier for Democrats to pass more state tax increases in the future.

“We’re already the third highest-taxed state in the country,” said Caulkins. “This will devastate our small businesses, our farmers, our economy. And it will drive more and more people out of this state faster than we’re seeing them leave today. So I urge you please, vote no.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Bailey’s speech at the rally painted a dark picture of what he believed was the governor’s objectives for state government.

“I believe wholeheartedly that Gov. Pritzker is trying to destroy the economy of Illinois,” said Bailey. “He’s trying to wreck it, so he can bring us to an early bankruptcy, whatever that looks like, so that he, hoping for a Biden presidency, will possibly receive a complete federal bailout, as well with many other states. We cannot let that happen.”

Rep. Bailey is running for the Illinois Senate 55th District seat being vacated by Republican Dale Righter. His Democratic opponent is Cynthia Given, who lost to Bailey in the 2018 Illinois House election.

Rep. Bailey spoke with Illinois Newsroom during his stop in Champaign and said he does not expect the governor to accept last week’s ruling against him.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

REP. DARREN BAILEY: Well, that is correct, Gov. Pritzker will probably appeal it. He’s asking for the entire case to be heard, which is including Count 1, which argues if he even had the authority to issue an emergency proclamation in the first place. Because we believe most of the times, for instance, when he issues emergency proclamations — let’s say there’s an area that is flooding. So the National Guard gets called out, to sandbag levees, to sandbag businesses, as the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act specifically says, to avert further damage. So our argument is that COVID was here, the levee was breached, the waters up, the flooding is taking place. So therefore, he (Gov. Pritzker) should have allowed this Emergency Management Agency Act to kick in, with county health department oversight, and then called the legislature back into session to make law, as opposed to him continuing with these executive orders that he has no authority to be doing.

JIM MEADOWS: So that’s the key thing here is getting the legislature in the process?

DB: If they so desire. We’ve got everything we need for the process. This governor is usurping his constitutional authority by declaring additional executive orders.

JM: Speaking as a legislator yourself, if this emergency comes before the General Assembly, how do you want the state to address the COVID-19 outbreak?

DB: Well, I’ve been arguing that since day one. Many states never closed. Just about every state around us seems to be open right now. It seems to me that as we keep closing, as we keep restricting people, in every case: this is a virus. It’s not going to disappear. So it’s much like the flu. So we have flu season, every fall, we know this comes around. This is probably something that, from the information that I’m hearing from the doctors that I talked to that, this may rear its head from time to time. So to destroy the local economy over this, the financial pandemic, that’s the true pandemic that’s taking place. The mental health pandemic that’s taking place. Our school children, in many cases are being kept home. The nursing homes are being locked down. So as a representative, I hear this all day long from people across the state. That’s what I’m standing up (and) fighting against.

JM: Is there also a danger that if that approach is taken, that the level of outbreak may go higher than it is already right now?

BAILEY: Obviously. The numbers are spiking again. But so far, when we see the numbers spike, they come back down. But if we continue to pull back in and rein ourselves in, we are preventing what probably is going to have to happen with the virus. Are we waiting on a vaccination or some medications take care of this? I don’t know when that’s going to come. When’s the next strain of another virus going to come? We are not getting the answers from the Illinois Department of Public Health that we are asking for. The data and the information that they tell us they have, they don’t present it. And constantly, their mitigation situations have changed many times. So it’s certainly a situation where, we’re free Americans, and my argument is that we should live like that. Because what’s at stake with the shutdowns is our economy and our mental health situation.

JM: When you said, “what probably has to happen with the virus,” are you talking about herd immunity?

DB: Possibly, yes. If you need to wear a mask, you wear a mask. If you’re concerned, you stay home. But to continue to destroy the economy as is being done, we’re going to see some long-lasting effects that I don’t believe that we’re fully aware of right now.

(“Herd immunity” occurs when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely. That can happen when enough people receive a vaccine or survive being infected with the disease. Most health experts say herd immunity to the coronavirus by infection is a dangerous strategy that would likely lead to more deaths. Rep. Bailey’s opinion on herd immunity follows ideas expressed in the Oct. 4 Great Barrington Declaration, written by medical professors Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, and sponsored by the libertarian American Institute for Economic Research.)

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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