Five Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat JB Pritzker voiced their opinions, policy goals and beliefs at a forum in Belleville on Saturday.
Darren Bailey, Gary Rabine, Paul Schimpf, Max Solomon and Jesse Sullivan shared standard GOP positions on the Second Amendment, abortion, taxes, the state’s response to COVID-19 and education, but what setting them apart were the promises they had sworn to keep if they were elected governor.
The only GOP candidate who did not show up at the forum, hosted by the St. Clair County Republican Party, was Mayor of Aurora Richard Irvin. He has mostly avoided the press and debates, but has the backing of Republican megadonor Kenneth Griffin, a Chicago hedge fund manager who has donated $45 million to Irvin’s campaign.
St. Louis-based conservative radio host Annie Frey moderated and, near the end of the forum, asked the candidates about the controversies that have arisen in their campaigns.
Frey questioned Bailey, a 56-year-old farmer and state senator from Xenia, on accusations that he supported former President Barack Obama. Bailey said he was part of an effort by late conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh calling on Republicans to vote for Democrats in the 2008 presidential primary. “Operation Chaos” suggested GOP voters vote for Hillary Clinton in an effort to split the Democratic Party.
As he took part in the effort, Bailey said he “never backed a Democrat for office and I never will.” Primary voters must choose the ballot of the party they wish to withdraw. The party they choose is public, although votes cast on the ballot are private in Illinois.
Sullivan, a 37-year-old venture capitalist from the central Illinois city of Petersburg, was asked about campaign contributions from out-of-state groups that have also donated to Democrats. Sullivan said those donors also contributed to Republican candidates.
Frey interviewed Rabine, a 58-year-old businessman from the affluent northern Illinois village of Bull Valley, about unpaid tax liens. In March, The WCIA reported that Rabine owed more than $10,200 in outstanding state taxes to a company he dissolved in 2019. Rabine told WCIA he tried to contact the state.
“Illinois never responded to us with this tax lien,” Rabine said at the forum.
Schimpf, a 51-year-old former state senator and Navy veteran, answered a question about “overcoming the fundraising advantage of other Republican gubernatorial candidates.” He said he would rely on “grassroots” efforts to mobilize people ahead of the June 28 primary.
“Most people haven’t made up their minds,” Schimpf said.
Soloman, a private practice attorney from Chicago, said just because he’s from the state’s largest city doesn’t mean he can’t represent southern Illinois.
“We can make Cook County red again,” Solomon said.
The candidates made the same promises on several objectives:
- Reverse a criminal justice reform law passed in 2021; support law enforcement.
- Make abortions harder to get in Illinois or make them illegal; restore a law obliging minors to declare their parents before abortion.
- Eliminate the requirement for a firearms owner identification card, or FOID card, to own a firearm.
- Freeze and reduce property and gas taxes to attract residents to Illinois.
- Reduce regulations and business taxes,
Here are other promises made by the candidates during the forum.
- Hand out “pink ballots” on his first day in office, replacing state agency heads.
- Governing from Springfield, not Chicago.
- “Make abortion unnecessary” by partnering with civic organizations and churches to “respect and support life”.
Work to implement term limits.
Asked about the COVID-19 mandates, Bailey said he believed the government’s role was to educate, inform and provide, but should leave it to “us the people to decide.” how we are going to live”.
- Rid Illinois of its “sanctuary state status” – Illinois is growing protections for immigrants and refugees in recent years, establishing itself as a welcoming “sanctuary” state.
- Lower business taxes to attract more businesses and residents to the state, possibly broadening the tax base. Rabine previously said Illinois would have to “tighten its belt” to achieve that goal, but did not specify what services or costs it would cut to make up for lost revenue.
- Removing sex education books from school libraries, he says, amounts to “child pornography”.
- Support funding for Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA – a program that provides volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in the child welfare system.
- Promised not to run for office if he does not “significantly reduce crime in Illinois”.
Work for a “parents’ bill of rights” that would require program transparency. The candidate said parents would not have “veto power” over school programs, but his plan would give parents and local school boards more control.
Manage property tax increases by requiring all increases to be approved by vote. This means that property taxes would only increase if a community approved a property tax increase through a referendum.
Schimpf promised to be a “pro-life” governor, but also said he would “run on issues that will unify” Republican and “Crusader” centrist voters.
Overturn a sex education law that directs the Illinois State Board of Education to update school curricula with information on gender identity and sexual orientation, among other topics. Parents already have the option of withdrawing their children from this learning by law.
- Like Solomon, Sullivan supports the school choice.
Replace members of the Illinois State Board of Education.
Sullivan believes the election is not “just a partisan battle” between Democrats and Republicans, but a “battle around our core values, a spiritual battle.” He thinks the Republicans are losing because “everybody buys into this idea of the separation of church and state.” Sullivan said he believed “religious values can and are meant to insert themselves into government, and God belongs at the center of our politics.”
Advocate for “local control” if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens again.