Watch now: Despite courting GOP voters in Springfield stop, Irvin still won’t say if he voted for Trump

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin greets GOP voters at the Sangamon County Republican Party headquarters in Springfield on Saturday.


SPRINGFIELD — Despite continuing to court Republican voters ahead of the June 28 primary election, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin again refused to say whether he voted for former President Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Irvin, considered a frontrunner for the Illinois GOP gubernatorial nomination, briefly met with reporters following a Saturday morning campaign event in Springfield. It was one of the final stops of a three-day, 16-event campaign swing across the state to promote early voting, which started Thursday.

Asked point blank whether he voted for Trump, who was GOP’s presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020 and is widely considered the favorite to win the nomination in 2024 if he runs, Irvin deflected, saying that “in general elections, I’m a Republican. I always vote for Republicans.”

Pressed again to confirm whether that included Trump, Irvin offered a similar iteration of his previous answer: “In general elections, I always vote Republican,” he said.

“A number of media outlets want to talk about the White House and national politics,” Irvin added. “This is about the state of Illinois. That’s exactly what J.B. Pritzker wants to be talking about — anything other than his record.”

Aurora Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin talks with incoming Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White in Springfield on Saturday, May 21.

Irvin has been pressed on the question several times by members of the media and his fellow primary challengers since entering the race in January.

But Irvin thus far has sidestepped the Trump question, a reflection of the former president’s continued popularity among Republican primary voters despite his broad unpopularity in the Democratic-leaning state.

While other Republican gubernatorial candidates like state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, and businessman Gary Rabine have embraced Trump and have even sought out his endorsement, Irvin has kept the former president at a distance, hoping to get through the Republican primary without alienating moderate suburban voters he needs to defeat Democratic incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November.

“As long as we’re talking about other things — national politics and the White House — we’re not talking about what we need to move Illinois forward,” Irvin said. “And that’s what we need to be talking about.”

Yet at the same time, national politics and Trump have been a feature of Irvin’s campaign literature. Several negative mail pieces on fellow candidates Bailey and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan have accused the pair of being “secret agents for the Never Trump agenda” and for supporting Democrats in the past.

Bailey voted in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he says was part of a conservative effort to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the nomination. He has voted Republican in every other partisan primary he’s participated in since 1989. And he served as a Trump delegate to the 2020 Republican National Convention. 

Irvin has pulled Democratic primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020 as well as in local primary elections in 2017 and 2021. He voted Republican in the 2018 primary.

Irvin told the station that he did not recall sending the texts, adding that he disagreed with Trump on some things but that the administration “delivered positive results” on issues ranging from tax cuts to public safety. 

On his campaign’s mailers attacking Bailey and Sullivan, Irvin said that “it’s important that we point out everybody’s record.”

“Those are their words, that’s their background,” Irvin said. “We want to point it out so our voters know who the people are.”

Early voting is now underway across most of the state, and primary Election Day is just over five weeks away. 

The limited amount of public polling released indicates Irvin leads in the primary with Bailey as his closest challenger and Rabine, Sullivan, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf and attorney Max Solomon further behind.

Irvin is easily the best financed of the group with hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man, largely underwriting his campaign. 

Thus far, the billionaire has donated $45 million to Irvin’s campaign. More is likely on the way as Griffin seeks to fulfill his pledge to go “all in” to defeat fellow billionaire Pritzker. 

Aurora Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin greets the son of his running mate, state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, at a campaign stop in Springfield on May 21, 2022. 


Irvin and lieutenant governor running mate Avery Bourne are leading a “slate” of GOP candidates for statewide office this year, including state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, for treasurer; Steve Kim for attorney general; former U.S. Attorney John Milhiser for secretary of state; and McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi for comptroller. 

The entire slate has appeared together at events across the state the past few days. Kim told the crowd gathered at the headquarters of the Sangamon County Republican Party, which included several local Republican elected officials and precinct committeemen, that it was “a great few days.”

“I will say, though, I am jealous of those running statewide in Rhode Island,” Kim said, jokingly mentioning the country’s smallest state by land area. 

Milhiser, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois from 2018 until 2021, said the slate would help usher in a “red wave” in the state.

“We have the right candidates here to make sure that red wave does not stop at the border of Illinois, but continues through Illinois and puts in place strong, conservative Republican candidates in statewide office, which we have to do to take our state back,” Milhiser said. 

In brief remarks, Irvin stayed on script, attacking Pritzker for a rise in crime and highlighting recent corruption cases involving high-level Democrats, most notably former House Speaker Michael Madigan. 

Irvin also focused on his biography, mentioning growing up in a housing project in Aurora with a single mother and overcoming the odds, joining the military and eventually becoming a lawyer.

“I became a lawyer, a prosecutor, an alderman and the mayor of my hometown,” Irvin said. “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps so I could live the American Dream. I am living proof that America is the greatest country in the world and Illinois is the greatest state in the union.”

Contact Brenden Moore at 217-421-7984. Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13

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May 21, 2022 at 03:59PM

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