Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin speaks to reporters in Springfield in March at a campaign kick-off event. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock)
This week, Irvin dodged questions at a press conference and dropped a new Bailey attack announcement.
By JERRY NOWICKI
Illinois Capitol News
We’re about a month and a half away from the June 28 primary, and “undecided” was the leading voter this week in a new poll of 1,000 likely GOP voters, with 36.9% of respondents falling into that camp.
For those polled who chose a candidate, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin led with 24.1%, followed by Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, at 19.8%, Gary Rabine at 7.8 %, Jesse Sullivan at 7.3%, Max Solomon. at 2.3% and Paul Schimpf at 1.9%.
The poll, by WGN-TV, The Hill and Emerson College, was conducted May 6-8, had a 3% margin of error and methods included cellphone messaging, landline voice response and an online panel.
Bailey’s camp was quick to say it shows the primary “is a two-man race for the heart and soul of our Republican Party.”
Bailey, a former state representative and now state senator, gained notoriety challenging the authority of Governor JB Pritzker’s executive order in court throughout the pandemic alongside the attorney general’s nominee. GOP, Thomas DeVore.
He has a staunch Conservative voting record in the General Assembly and he also campaigned for the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. According to the poll, 57.4% of those polled said they would be more likely to vote for a Trump-endorsed candidate, while 18.8% said less likely and the rest said it wouldn’t make a difference.
Irvin’s campaign, meanwhile, said it’s the Democrats who propagate Bailey’s campaign.
The Democratic Governors Association, to which Pritzker has donated millions of his personal fortune over the past five years, has paid for ads attacking Irvin’s record as a defense attorney.
This week, the DGA also launched a new ad calling Bailey “too conservative for Illinois” while listing things that could play well in a GOP primary, such as her anti-abortion voting record. 100%, his membership in the National Rifle Association and his support for the Trump agenda.
Irvin’s campaign pegged the combined spending total of his opponents and outside groups in the GOP primary at $22 million, including $8 million directly attacking Irvin.
Irvin’s campaign has spent at least $12 million, backed by $45 million from GOP megadonor Ken Griffin, founder of investment firm Citadel, who was a backer to former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner .
Bailey’s biggest backer is fellow megadonor, Uline founder Richard Uihlein, who at one time backed Rauner but ended up funding his main GOP challenger in 2018. He gave Bailey 3, $5 million.
Thus, the DGA’s ad buys greatly expand Bailey’s exposure statewide.
“JB Pritzker is in desperation mode, funding a massive increase in TV ad spending to ensure he has Darren Bailey as his opponent in November, and Darren Bailey happily accepts Pritzker’s help,” the spokeswoman said. of Irvin, Eleni Demertzis, in a statement. “Darren Bailey’s candidacy is so weak that he needs JB Pritzker to do his dirty work.”
That statement came in an announcement from Irvin’s camp that he was launching a new attack ad against Bailey, calling him “Pritzker’s favorite tax-raising Republican.” The ‘tax-raising’ attack targets Bailey’s time on the North Clay School District’s board of trustees from 1996 to 2012, when he frequently voted to increase tax levies, which resulted in an increase in 81% of property tax in the district while in office. the school board.
Bailey said he likes the DGA ads because they show that both sides of the political establishment underestimate him. And he argues that Irvin is the Democratic factory.
“Democrats shouldn’t be involved and spending money on our primary,” his campaign said in a statement. “Richard Irvin is a career Democrat and a puppet of political elites, and he meddles in our Republican primary, trying to fool voters with nothing but lies from his basement.
“Darren Bailey is the real curator of this race who fought Pritzker for his lockdowns and mandates while Irvin hugged and praised him.”
The poll was released two days after Irvin was in Aurora for his first press conference since March. As he called him to release a state audit that showed the Illinois Department of Public Health failed to respond quickly to a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 at a home for elders state-run combatants in the fall of 2020, reporters made ample use of the time to dig deeper into a number of issues that Irvin avoided.
He mostly dodged questions, telling reporters “let me finish” or “can I finish” more than 20 times as he rephrased talking points and campaign attacks rather than respond. A headline from the Chicago Tribune rang out: “GOP nominee for Governor Richard Irvin holds press conference, but dances around abortion questions, Trump.”
Among the questions he dodged were ones that sought to clarify his votes in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries and whether he would support Trump in a 2024 election.
“That’s exactly what JB Pritzker wants to talk about,” Irvin said.
Except Irvin’s camp accused Bailey and Sullivan of being “never-Trumpers” and attacked Bailey for his own vote in a 2008 Democratic primary.
We’ll see if Irvin’s camp sees this week’s press conference as an indicator that more practice with the media is needed, or if he’s backtracking further in a campaign isolated by the Griffin money.
Pritzker, meanwhile, was pressed on DGA ads at a press conference on Friday, saying he’s not afraid of any Republican candidate, and that any attack on them should be seen as elevating ” all the good the democrats have done in the state and me as governor have done in the state.
“Darren Bailey has been attacking my policies since day one,” Pritzker said. “Certainly if he becomes the Republican nominee, he’s going to be a tough contender. I’m just trying to tell everyone who Darren Bailey really is.
Jerry Nowicki is the bureau chief of Capitol News Illinois, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.