On their first meeting on Tuesday, GOP candidates seeking Illinois’ Republican nomination for governor aim Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin for using his well-funded campaign to run mailers and TV ads to attack them while avoiding facing them.
Irvin’s campaign ads mostly targeted Darren Bailey and Jesse Sullivan. The two got a chance to fire their shots back at Irvin during a session of the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board.
“With Richard, you know, the way he’s running this scorched-earth campaign, just telling lies, treating the conservative base like they’re idiots,” said Sullivan, a cryptocurrency venture capitalist from Petersburg.
Sullivan further associated Irvin with Gov. Bruce Rauner, former one-term Republican who lost to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2018. Sullivan warned GOP voters of ending up with the same outcome if they support Irvin.
“It’s the same Rauner playbook that they used in 2018. The same insiders that ruined his chances against Pritzker. The same thing is going to happen here with this one. The conservative base is not going to show up for him.” said Sullivan.
On the other hand, Darren Bailey, a state senator from Xenia, criticized Aurora city where Irvin has been mayor since 2017.
“It’s the highest taxed city in the nation, has a ‘ridiculous pension problem,’ and has downgraded crimes to civil violations to ‘doctor the papers’ to make the city look safer,” Bailey said.
In response to the allegations that he was avoiding his GOP candidates and media, Irvin denied all despite his lack of public events, news conferences, or joint appearances with his GOP rivals.
“My opponents are trying to create that perception,” Irvin said. “The reality is we’ve got to talk about the things that are important to the voters and that’s what I want to talk about.”
Irvin also suggested that Bailey and Sullivan have supported well-known Democratic candidates for president before. This was Irvin’s usual way of trying to smear opponents- a theme that has come to the fore during his “scorched-earth campaigns.”
“I won’t be lectured by a guy that’s endorsed Barack Obama,” Irvin said referring to Sullivan, “and I won’t be lectured by a guy that, in his own words, said, ‘You know, I might have voted for Joe Biden,’” Irvin said of Bailey. “The reality is none of these gentlemen are going to have real solutions and I’ve shown solutions in the city of Aurora.”
After a long debate that lasted more than 100 minutes, each candidate provided some new insights into their policy positions while trying to distinguish themselves from one another. They all hold similar opinions on some of the major issues like opposing abortion.
Donald Trump remains a powerful force in GOP politics nationally and locally even though Illinois supported Joe Biden over him in the 2020 presidential elections. Bailey confirmed that he is Trump’s major supporter.
Bailey was afterward asked if he agreed with the former Republican president’s false assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
“There was a fraud. We know there was a fraud.” Bailey said. Upon being asked whether he believed that’s what led to Biden’s victory, Bailey said, “I haven’t seen that proven yet, but there was a fraud.”
Bailey attempted to question Irvin’s support for Donald Trump during the editorial board session.
“I am a supporter of President Trump, as opposed to what Mr. Irvin wants to say, about (how) he wants to talk about the issues. But it’s interesting because all he wants to talk about is trashing each one of us around this table.” Bailey said.
Irvin only repeated a line he’s been using in recent days, “I’m a Republican and in generals (elections), I vote Republican.”
Irvin is determined to avoid any discussions regarding Trump in his public appearances. He doesn’t make any comments on Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen or on the former president’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Irvin claims that such questions are Pritzker’s way of distracting him.
On Tuesday, Irvin finally made some comments on Trump. Irvin said, “there have been areas where I’ve disagreed with Trump, but Trump’s administration has done many things for the American people that were great.” He also added that his rivals “are falling into the trap” and not talking about solutions.
Schimpf, a former military lawyer, admitted voting for Trump in 2016 and 2020. According to Schimpf, knowing who the candidate voted for president was a legitimate discussion that voters should know.
Solomon, a native of Lagos, Nigeria, and a U.S. citizen said he also cast his vote for Donald Trump.
“In my years of being a citizen of the United States, President Trump, he’s the best president that I’ve ever experienced in the United States,” Solomon said.
Illinois’ wealthiest man and the founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund, Ken Griffin is backing up Irvin with $45 million in contributions. Griffin has been engaged in a long-running political dispute against J.B Pritzker.
The Democratic Governors Association and a political action committee cooperating with Bailey continue to launch attacks against Irvin using TV ads. The Aurora mayor’s past stands like praising the election of Obama as the U.S first Black president, calling Pritzker a good friend, and praising Lori Lightfoot’s election as Chicago mayor, are some of Bailey’s targets on the new ads being launched.
Conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest has backed up Bailey with $6 million in contributions for the ads. Uihlein has also given Bailey-aligned political action committees more than $4.8 million.
During the editorial board meeting, Bailey explained the reason behind holding off TV ads in the pricey Chicago until six weeks out of the election.
“We believe it saves us money because there’s been so much nonsense that has been propagated, the people are – they’re reading right into it,” Bailed said.
However, Sullivan did not agree with Bailey’s reason for holding the advert. According to Sullivan, the Chicago Republicans would probably reject Bailey’s message since the state senator had previously spearheaded a resolution that aimed at making the Chicago area a separate state.
“If you look at Darren, he’s a strong conservative but being able to win around Chicago, to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is someone who co-sponsored a bill to separate Chicago from Downstate’s as one of their first moves -it’s going to be very hard to be able to win up to around Chicago,” Sullivan said.
In response to Sullivan, Bailey said “in the past two years, my wife Cindy and I and our team, we’ve been immersing ourselves in Chicago culture trying to unite the city and the state.”
Rabine, of Bull Valley, also cited his insights regarding his campaign plans. Rabine is confident that he is going to win the Chicago market. He plans to spend around $5 million to $7 million on his campaigns, including TV ads. His main aim is to improve the economy of Illinois so that citizens won’t leave the state.
Rabine also spoke about his wife Cheryl who died of brain cancer in 2020.
“She’s buried in my community. I want to be buried with her. My plot is next to hers. And I don’t want them to be shipping my body in from Florida or Tennessee or wherever. This is my home.” Rabine said.
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