Republican candidate for governor Richard Irvin met with the media Monday for only the second time since announcing his candidacy, but deflected questions of likely interest to voters that ranged from his past presidential votes and the prospect of another presidential bid by Donald Trump to whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Instead, the Aurora mayor used a news conference at his suburban campaign headquarters to filibuster and repeat talking points from his infrequent public appearances while contending reporters were following a script set by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Irvin’s event was ostensibly held to attack Pritzker over his administration’s handling of the November 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home. The administration’s failures were detailed in a state auditor general’s report on the outbreak last week.
But with Irvin rarely seen in public since becoming a candidate, reporters used the opportunity to hit him with questions about his politics, including his record of voting in the Democratic presidential primaries in 2016 and 2020 even as he’s accused GOP rivals of helping to elect Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Irvin was also asked if he voted for Trump in the past or would do so if the former president makes a 2024 bid, and whether he supports a federal ban on abortion or the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Despite pleas and shouts from reporters, Irvin did not answer any of those questions. His stonewalling was in keeping with a strategy aimed at avoiding any controversy or doing anything to deflect from the tough-on-crime and taxes message sent through millions of dollars in TV advertising.
Irvin, who calls himself “pro-life,” said he supports exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. He also said he would seek to reinstitute a parental notification requirement in Illinois for minors seeking an abortion.
Responding to the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion last week that would overturn Roe and its protections for abortion without undue government interference, Irvin noted it was a draft and said it was “irresponsible for us to hypothesize and speculate on what the outcome will be.”
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has broached the possibility of a move for a federal ban on abortions. Irvin dismissed questions about that by saying, “I’m running for governor in the state of Illinois. I’m not talking about what the federal government’s going to do.”
Asked if the state’s governor should play a role in influencing national politics, Irvin did not answer.
Instead, he cited Pritzker’s signature on a bill to repeal the parental notification requirement on abortion as an example of the “extremes” he said that people are concerned about under the Democratic governor. He said his desire to restore the notification requirement was an example of what he would do as governor for abortion opponents.
He did not address two other laws Republican candidates have said they would reverse: one allowing taxpayer-funded abortions for poor women, which was signed by Pritzker’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the other 2019 legislation signed by Pritzker that made abortion a “fundamental right” for women in Illinois.
Pritzker has sought to make abortion rights a critical part of his bid for a second term, particularly among the key swing demographic of suburban women, which has trended more to Democrats. Republicans are hoping those women will have greater concerns about outbreaks of violent crime and pocketbook issues such as rising prices due to inflation.
Irvin has used mass mailings to accuse two rivals, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and cryptocurrency investor Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg, of being “secret agents for the Never-Trump agenda.” Bailey cast a 2008 Democratic primary ballot, which he said was part of an organized effort to deny Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nomination. Sullivan, in college, authored a publication that supported Obama.
Irvin cast Democratic primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020. He has previously said he voted for friends who he felt would help further a conservative agenda.
But Irvin, who in the past has refused to say whether he believed Trump’s falsehood that the Republican president’s reelection was stolen, again refused to say if he voted for Trump in past presidential elections.
When a reporter noted that McConnell said Trump would be the GOP’s 2024 presidential candidate if he sought the nomination, and asked if Irvin would support the former president, he deflected, as he has in the past, by contending such questions do Pritzker’s bidding because they take attention away from the first-term governor’s record in office.
“You know, what I’m hearing around the state is (people) want to focus on the future. They want to focus on the fact that taxes are out of control, corruption’s out of control, you know, the crime in the state is out of control,” Irvin said.
Irvin, the first Black mayor of Aurora, has received $45 million for his campaign from billionaire Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund firm, and a political foe of billionaire Pritzker. Irvin’s campaign is run by staff that helped Rauner win election in part through a strategy of keeping the political newcomer a blank slate to voters while focusing on populist issues.
“I’ll define my own record,” Irvin said.
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May 9, 2022 at 04:43PM