Home Local Richard Irvin launches new message in battle for GOP governor nomination: A vote for Bailey is a vote for Pritzker

Richard Irvin launches new message in battle for GOP governor nomination: A vote for Bailey is a vote for Pritzker

by staff

Acknowledging the fight for the Republican nomination for governor has become a two-man race, Richard Irvin on Friday crafted a new message aimed at painting a primary victory by his chief rival as a promise of another four years in office for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“A vote for Darren Bailey is a vote for J.B. Pritzker,” Irvin said seven times in a 20-minute news conference in Bloomington.


Irvin’s decision to reassess its strategy with little more than two weeks to go before the June 28 primary points to the questionable success so far of a campaign backed by $50 million from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. The campaign had temporarily pulled its broadcast ads in Republican-rich Downstate and had curtailed its Chicago broadcast ad buy.

The new strategy is a two-pronged approach: one that has Irvin personally pushing the argument that Bailey, a conservative Downstate state senator, is unelectable in a general election; and the second using TV ads to portray a more positive image of Irvin and criticize Pritzker’s record.


One new ad, touting Irvin’s efforts to turn Aurora’s dilapidated buildings into usable space, ends with a new tag line: “Cut the fat. Clean up Springfield. Richard Irvin.”

It’s a line that could also be considered a shot at Pritzker’s girth. Pritzker, in his very first campaign ad for governor in 2017, confronted that issue by saying, “I’ve been thinking big since the very beginning.”

Irvin’s fundamental positioning as a law-and-order candidate apparently won’t change, as evidenced by his Bloomington appearance, where he attacked Pritzker for criminal justice reforms that he contended supported criminals at the expense of victims and law enforcement.

Griffin, the billionaire founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm, has blamed Pritzker for policies that “have driven the largest crime wave in the history of Illinois.”

Bailey, from Downstate Xenia, is running a populist, evangelical conservative campaign. His bid has been assisted by millions of dollars in ads attacking Irvin from Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association, which also has run ads that offer backhanded support to Bailey in the GOP primary by calling the state senator “too conservative for Illinois.”

Those ads are being put in front of voters on top of Bailey’s own ad campaign and ads attacking Irvin from a political action committee funded by ultraconservative billionaire megadonor Richard Uihlein. Uihlein, founder of the Uline business packaging and supply firm, has given Bailey and the allied PAC a combined total of more than $17 million.

Irvin’s campaign contends that in the last six weeks it has been subjected to more than $31 million in TV attack advertising, including $13 million from the Pritzker-supported DGA and $6 million directly from the governor. They estimate Democratic spending to influence the Republican primary will total an unprecedented $32 million.

The billionaire Pritzker also recently gave the Democratic Party of Illinois $500,000, and the state party issued mailers touting Bailey as “dangerously conservative” and “pro-Trump, pro-gun and pro-life.”


The Pritzker campaign favors a head-to-head matchup with Bailey in November, avoiding a costly contest against the Griffin-funded Irvin and believing Bailey’s extreme conservative views in opposing abortion and supporting gun rights make him easy to defeat in the traditionally Democratic state.

But Irvin’s strategy of accepting Pritzker’s belief that Bailey is too conservative to win a general election also calls into question the Aurora mayor’s efforts to portray himself as a conservative to GOP primary voters.

“Democrat meddling in the Republican primary with negative campaign ads against me, tens of millions of dollars to take me down and to prop Darren Bailey up. So you got to ask the question: Why is (Pritzker) doing that? Why is he spending tens of million dollars in negative ads against me? Because he doesn’t want to face me in the general election,” Irvin said during his Bloomington appearance.

“He’s trying to choose the Republican candidate that he faces in the general (election), one that he knows he can beat. I’ll say it again: A vote for Darren Bailey is a vote to reelect J.B. Pritzker,” Irvin said.

Bailey’s campaign rejected Irvin’s efforts to paint Bailey as the less conservative candidate.

“Republicans are rejecting Richard Irvin because he’s a career Democrat and his campaign has been nothing but desperation and lies,” Bailey spokesman Joe DeBose said of Irvin’s new attacks. “Darren Bailey is the true conservative in this race who will defeat Pritzker and fight for working families and taxpayers.”


Pritzker, attending an event in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on Friday, sought to reject Irvin’s line that a GOP primary vote for Bailey was equivalent to voting for his reelection.

“It’s a ridiculous statement, the idea of equating the most conservative person on the Republican side with me. I’m a Democrat. I believe in the values of the Democratic Party,” Pritzker said, before echoing the Democratic messaging that could encourage GOP support for Bailey.

“He’s a right-wing conservative. He’s anti-choice. I’m pro-choice. He’s pro-Trump,” Pritzker said of Bailey. “I clearly have not been an ally of former President (Donald) Trump. And so there’s just no equating.”

Asked who he’d rather face in the general election Nov. 8, the governor said, “I’ll face anybody.”

Tribune reporter Clare Spaulding contributed.


Related Articles

Leave a Comment