Republican former state Sen. Paul Schimpf announced his candidacy for Illinois governor on Monday, throwing his hat in the ring for the GOP nomination to potentially challenge Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2022.
Schimpf most recently served as state senator for the 58th District in southern Illinois, which includes Murphysboro, Waterloo, Red Bud and Du Quoin, among other communities. He was elected to that office in 2016 and served one term before declining to run for reelection in 2020.
Schimpf, 50, is a retired Marine and an attorney who advised in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2005 and previously ran unsuccessfully for Illinois attorney general in 2014.
"Illinois needs a governor who understands the day-to-day challenges that we all face, a governor who will live by the same rules that the rest of us follow and most importantly, a governor who will stand up to the entrenched special interest groups who have severely damaged our state," Schimpf said during a video news conference announcing his candidacy Monday morning.
Schimpf also posted to social media an announcement video that highlighted his military service as he vowed to take on the state's unspecified "challenges."
Schimpf's video did not mention Pritzker by name, though he's long been critical of the governor, particularly over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying on multiple occasions that he believes some of the mitigations and orders Pritzker put in place were "illogical" and amounted to "overreach."
Pritzker himself has not yet announced a campaign for a second term. A member of the billionaire Pritzker family, best known for owning the Hyatt hotel chain, he was first elected in 2018 after spending more than $171.5 million of his personal fortune in the race against then-Gov. Bruce Rauner. Pritzker ousted the incumbent first-term Republican - weakened by a more than two-yearlong state budget impasse with Democrats in the legislature - by a 15.7-point margin.
Pritzker has staked out progressive positions on several issues, shepherding the legalization of recreational marijuana beginning in 2020 as well as a plan to increase the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour, both central parts of his campaign platform.
But the failure of the graduated income tax proposal on the November 2020 ballot - another initiative Pritzker ran on in 2018 and strongly advocated for in the years since - may have signaled vulnerability to any potential Republican gubernatorial hopefuls and presents a more challenging landscape for Pritzker in addressing the state's long-beleaguered finances.
In a statement on Schimpf's candidacy Monday, the Democratic Party of Illinois highlighted his support for both Rauner and former President Donald Trump as why voters "will reject" him.
"Schimpf was a consistent vote for Bruce Rauner’s catastrophic agenda, even going along with his attempts to continue the historic budget crisis that resulted in Illinois going 736 days without a budget," DPI's Executive Director Mary Morrissey said in a statement. "He supported Donald Trump’s re-election, even after the former president failed at his central task of keeping Americans safe by lying about the dangers of the coronavirus and instead promoting conspiracy theories."
Several other Republican candidates have either been rumored to be considering a run for governor, or have themselves floated a potential candidacy, though Schimpf appears to be the first to make it official.
The primary election in Illinois is scheduled to be held in March 2022, with the general election taking place the following November.