Illinois primary

Republican Primary for Illinois Governor: 6 Candidates Jockey for GOP Nomination to Take on Pritzker

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The race for Illinois governor is shaping up to be yet another battle of the billionaires, with big money, big personalities and big controversies.

Incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker is running for a second term, facing one opponent in the Democratic primary, while six candidates are vying for the GOP nomination in the November general election. Each Republican has spent months trying to showcase his conservative credentials - and questioning those of his opponents in scathing attacks - as they all try to appeal to the GOP base.

With a sizable field and recent polling showing much of the electorate remains undecided, the Republican nomination is no guarantee for any of the hopefuls.

The Republican candidates are, in the order they appear on the ballot:

State Sen. Darren Bailey: Bailey, of downstate Xenia, served one term in the Illinois House of Representatives beginning in 2019 before successfully running for the 55th District state Senate seat in 2020. He garnered more widespread name recognition when he sued Pritzker over the governor's stay-at-home order in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and when his colleagues in the House voted to remove him from the legislative session for not following the chamber's rule requiring a face covering. In the legislature, Bailey is part of the “Eastern Bloc,” which in 2019 backed a resolution to separate Chicago from the rest of the state. While Bailey has since walked back that effort, he has still been largely critical of the city, calling it a “dysfunctional hellhole.” A third-generation farmer, he owns and operates the Bailey Family Farm, which made headlines earlier this year when the Paycheck Protection Program funding his entities received - totaling more than $500,000 - came to light. Records show Bailey received a $231,475 PPP payment in February 2021 as he continued to criticize federal COVID-19 relief efforts - and less than a month before he personally loaned his political campaign $150,000. That was before he started to receive the backing - and big money - of shipping supply giant and GOP mega-donor Richard Uihlein, who has boosted Bailey's campaign with more than $9 million. Uihlein is no stranger to gubernatorial races in Illinois: in 2018, he poured millions into conservative firebrand Jeanne Ives' nearly successful primary challenge against then-Gov. Bruce Rauner. Ives, who challenged Rauner from the right fueled by the base’s anger over his actions on abortion and immigration, has endorsed Bailey this cycle. But the big endorsement Bailey is openly seeking is that of former President Donald Trump, having visited Mar-a-Lago to make his case. Bailey's running mate is former talk radio host Stephanie Trussell, whose years-old comments and tweets criticizing Trump resurfaced once Bailey announced that she would be joining his ticket. Bailey himself has also faced attacks for pulling a Democratic ballot in the 2008 presidential primary, which he explained as an effort spearheaded by Rush Limbaugh to "bring chaos" to the race.

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf: Schimpf, of Waterloo, was elected to the 58th District in the Illinois Senate in 2016 and served one term before declining to run for reelection in 2020. He 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, losing by more than 20 points. His running mate is Carolyn Schofield, who currently serves on the McHenry County Board.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin: Irvin is the first Black mayor of Aurora, first elected in 2017 and reelected to a second term in 2021. He is an Army veteran and an attorney who previously worked as a prosecutor in Cook and Kane counties - experience he highlights as part of his promise to be tough on crime - before opening a private law practice. That law practice has been the subject of one of multiple attack ads against Irvin, in this case from the Democratic Governors Association, accusing him of defending "some of the most violent and heinous criminals" in contrast with his platform. The DGA has also run ads calling Bailey "too conservative for Illinois," in a nod to the GOP base that appears to be an effort to boost Bailey over Irvin in the primary with the hope that he may be an easier opponent for Pritzker in November. Irvin has also taken heat for voting in multiple Democratic primaries and previously praising Pritzker, with his opponents questioning his conservative credentials. For his part, Irvin has repeatedly refused to say who he voted for for president in 2016 and 2020, and a report of text messages in which he called Trump an “idiot” have been featured prominently in even more ads against him. Pritzker's campaign has also directly run ads hammering at perhaps the biggest weapon in Irvin's arsenal: the backing of the state's richest man, Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of hedge fund Citadel, who is worth an estimated $26.2 billion, according to Forbes. Griffin is no stranger to Illinois politics, most recently spending more than $53 million to defeat the graduated income tax amendment championed by Pritzker on the 2020 ballot, and backing Rauner's first run for governor to the tune of $36 million. Griffin has so far infused Irvin's campaign with $50 million, giving him a massive cash advantage over the other five candidates. Irvin’s used his war chest to flood the airwaves with ads - including attempts to spin Pritzker and the Democrats’ involvement in the primary as a positive, claiming he’s the strongest candidate to beat the incumbent governor in the general election. Irvin's running mate is state Rep. Avery Bourne, of Morrisonville in central Illinois, who has represented the 95th District since her appointment in 2015.

Gary Rabine: Rabine, of Bull Valley in northwest suburban McHenry County, is the founder and chairman of the Rabine Group, which he began as a residential paving business in 1981 and has since expanded nationwide. Rabine has highlighted his business experience throughout his campaign, and like Bailey, his companies have received a significant amount of federal PPP loans: more than $2.6 million across multiple entities. Rabine has also on several occasions noted his involvement in the lawsuit against the President Joe Biden’s administration’s vaccine mandate for companies of at least 100 employees, for which the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in January. As the candidates each look to appeal to the GOP base, Rabine touts on his website praise from Trump associate Gen. Michael Flynn, as well as his early backing of Turning Point USA, the right-wing organization founded by conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, who has endorsed him. Rabine – who has contributed to both Republicans and Democrats in the past – has personally loaned his campaign more than $1.4 million, though he still trails behind most of his competitors financially. Rabine’s running mate is Aaron Del Mar, an entrepreneur who currently serves as the Palatine Township Rural Fire Protection District Trustee and Highway Commissioner.

Max Solomon: Solomon is an attorney and ordained Christian minister from Hazel Crest who has previously run for state legislative offices as both a Democrat and later as a Republican. Records show he first filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections as a Democrat in 2013, running for a state Senate seat in 2016 and an Illinois House seat in 2018, both times as a Democrat and both times losing in the primary. He ran for the same statehouse seat in 2020, this time as a Republican, sailing through an uncontested primary to lose in the general election that year. His war chest lags far, far behind his opponents, having raised less than $2,000 since the beginning of 2022 as his campaign carries roughly $68,000 in debt. His running mate is Latasha Fields, also a minister, the Republican committeewoman in Chicago’s 21st Ward and a vocal critic of the public schooling system.

Jesse Sullivan: Sullivan is a downstate Petersburg native who started venture capital firm Alter Global in California in 2015. Sullivan moved back to Illinois the following year and continues to serve as the company’s CEO. He’s faced questions over his residency and characterizations as a Silicon Valley investor – depictions that have been underscored by his fundraising, with his three largest contributions totaling $11 million from wealthy out-of-state tech executives like San Francisco billionaire Chris Larsen. Sullivan has attempted to fight that characterization by releasing documents showing his residency as well as a campaign video showcasing his family in soybean fields near his home. He was a U.S. Department of Defense civilian intelligence analyst in Afghanistan – which Irvin’s campaign has claimed he misrepresented as military service, an attack that prompted Sullivan to quickly counter with his own ad. He’s also faced criticism from his opponents who unearthed his prior support for President Barack Obama while in college in 2008, which his campaign has addressed by saying he has voted only for Republicans for nearly a decade. Sullivan’s running mate is Kathleen Murphy, a former spokeswoman for Ives.

The race has been by and large a partisan purity test, with each candidate staking out conservative stances on several major issues as Illinois' GOP primary electorate has shifted further right and increasingly more downstate.

On abortion, Bailey, Sullivan, Rabine and Solomon all publicly celebrated the leaked draft opinion indicating the U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Schimpf and Irvin have both decried Illinois’ current abortion laws as “extreme,” though Irvin has repeatedly refused to explicitly share his stance on the draft before a final ruling is issued.

Crime and law enforcement has also taken center stage in the race, with each candidate making largely unspecified assurances that they will be tough on crime and support law enforcement. Many have also criticized the criminal justice reform measure known as the SAFE-T Act that was signed into law last year and ends cash bail by 2023, requires all officers to wear body cameras by 2025 and bans police chokeholds, among several other changes.

Another issue the candidates frequently reference is education – from parental involvement to COVID-19 mitigation measures, sex education in schools and more. They also often take aim at the state’s tax structure, as well as corruption in Illinois politics, with the hopefuls vowing to change the culture as the shadow of indicted former House Speaker Michael Madigan and the federal probe that ensnared him continue to loom large.

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