With public safety front and center in the Illinois gubernatorial primaries, Republicans running for the chance to face off against Gov. J.B. Pritzker this fall are trying to bolster their credentials in the coming weeks.
While there are many differences between the candidates running, they all argue that Pritzker and Illinois Democrats went too far when they approved a sweeping criminal justice reform bill in the state.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who has run on a platform that heavily emphasizes his support of law enforcement, appeared at a campaign event Wednesday with Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara.
“We can take back this state, and it starts June 28,” he said.
Irvin has also received the endorsement of Illinois Troopers Lodge 41, a group representing more than 3,200 active and retired Illinois State Police troopers.
Some of Irvin’s Republican opponents disagree with his arguments that he’s the best suited to combat crime in the state, including attorney Jesse Sullivan.
“Violent crime is up 40% in the city of Aurora. Aggravated assault is up 38%,” he said in an interview with NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern. “Criminal sexual assault is up 129%. That is not a good record on crime.”
Irvin has also run ads discussing his response to incidents of looting and rioting in Aurora in May 2020, but State Sen. Darren Bailey says that his opponent has misrepresented his actions during that unrest.
“When the riots broke out in Aurora, he told police to stand down,” Bailey said. “And nobody is talking about that.”
Officials enacted a curfew during that incident, which saw individuals engaging in violent clashes with police in the wake of the George Floyd shooting in Minnesota.
Even as the candidates disagree on their respective records, they all have expressed a desire to repeal HB 3653. That bill, signed by Pritzker, diverts low-level drug crimes into substance abuse programs, and also makes strides toward ending cash bail in the state. The bill also establishes new standards for use of force by police officers, and emphasizes different tactics in police training.
Irvin, who has been critical of crime in Chicago, criticized States Attorney Kim Foxx’s record, saying that she has been too lenient in setting bond for those accused of violent crimes.
“Unfortunately we have a state’s attorney who refuses to do her job, and actually prosecute criminals,” he said.
Bailey and Sullivan both noted that Irvin was present when Pritzker signed a bill that made changes to the state’s Firearm Owners Identification Card program, which most of the Republican candidates in the field have pledged to reverse.
“(Irvin) applauded JB Pritzker on the passage of the Safety Act,” Bailey said. “What is wrong with that?”
“He was a passionate supporter of Black Lives Matter,” Sullivan added. “When cop cars were being burnt, he said he was ‘conflicted’ on whether to take action.”
Irvin, who has said during the campaign that he does not support Black Lives Matter, defended his record on the FOID legislation.
“Those FOID card changes that Pritzker talked about were not enough to go beyond what we needed to fix,” he said. “It’s broken, and when I’m governor I’ll fix it.”