Illinois Republicans will have a tough fight to challenge JB Pritzker – Crain’s Chicago Business

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There’s plenty of good campaign material to use, even if billionaire Pritzker will try to bury whoever runs in negative TV ads. Unfunded pension liability continues to soar and soak up money needed for education, health care and public safety. The state’s economy continues to lag the nation’s. Organized labor increasingly has a headlock on legislation, demanding a cut of anything that comes up. And while the Chicago Democrat Pritzker has merely rolled his eyes at the problem, the Legislature refuses to enact real ethics reform even as member after member heads to federal prison.

So, there’s potential there. The question is whether the GOP is up to the task.

At the moment, there are three officially declared candidates.

One is McHenry County businessman Gary Rabine. His media spokesman sounded quite chipper about the prospects of getting his candidate on the phone to talk about issues when I called. But then another interview Rabine granted to downstate TV reporter Mark Maxwell exploded in his face, with Rabine saying he would not encourage people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the spokesman having to walk back Rabine’s suggestion without proof that the vaccines have caused thousands of deaths.

Oh well.

I was able to catch up with the second candidate, southern Illinois conservative firebrand Sen. Darren Bailey, and he certainly lived up to his reputation.

Bailey said he and his neighbors are tired of “endless government” and called for zero-based budgeting through state operations. “I live on a budget. Unfortunately the state doesn’t.” OK so far. But then he went on to call for abolition of firearms ID cards, terming them “an infringement on our rights.” He said Pritzker has “destroyed” the state with COVID-related controls. Then he refused to say whether he thinks Illinoisans should be vaccinated: “That’s up to people to decide.”

We didn’t get to Donald Trump and the events of Jan. 6—or Bailey’s tweet calling on the Illinois GOP to “condemn” U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger for criticisms of Trump.

That leaves candidate No. 3, ex-Marine, former Illinois attorney general hopeful and ex-state Sen. Paul Schimpf from the Metro East area near St. Louis. Maybe it was the sheer comparison, or the fact that his campaign website labels him a “common sense conservative we can trust.” But I was rather impressed.

Pritzker “has refused to stand up to the entrenched special interests on spending and other matters,” he says, but Rauner “missed an opportunity” to right the ship of state because he never realized governing means “building relationships and working together,” Schimpf said. When the state has extra cash, like now, it ought to pay down pension debt to save money long term, Schimipf continued. “I encourage people to consult with their physician and be vaccinated if it makes sense,” like he has, he said. And Trump, who sponsored him for a federal judgeship, “had his day in court and lost. We as Republicans need to be focused on what we can do to unite the country and be stronger.”

Not bad.

Perhaps they’re waiting for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis to enter the fray, something he has hinted he’ll do if dominant Springfield Democrats give him an unfriendly map in which to seek re-election. Maybe that’s why state GOP Chairman Don Tracy wouldn’t get on the phone to discuss prospects for defeating Pritzker.

Still, it’s getting late for someone else to run. Odds are rising that, in the end, the three names above are the ones Illinois Republicans will have to choose among in their 2022 primary.

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July 30, 2021 at 06:31AM

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